Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is expected to extend his 30-year rule in an election that’s being held on Thursday amid tight security and fears of violence.
Former guerrilla commander Museveni is competing with seven other candidates to run a landlocked country that’s Africa’s biggest coffee exporter, is planning oil production in two years and may build a pipeline for the fuel to the Indian Ocean. Recent opinion polls show him the favorite to win, with his main opponent, Kizza Besigye, trailing by at least 20 percentage points.
Balloting was delayed at some polling stations in the capital, Kampala, with voters having to wait more than an hour after the official 7 am start for election materials to arrive at booths set up at the National Theatre.
“It’s disappointing that the start was delayed because I wanted to go home then return later for the counting of the vote,” Fred Mukuye, a 40-year-old truck driver, said in an interview.
About 15.3 million people are registered to cast ballots for the presidential and legislative elections, with 28,010 polling stations open across the East African nation until 4 pm. Results are due within 48 hours of polls closing, with candidates needing more than 50 percent of ballots to win outright.
Museveni’s re-election bid shows a rising trend in Africa, where a growing number of leaders are trying to extend their rule, in some cases amending the constitution to do so. Uganda’s $27 billion economy has companies such as London-based Tullow Oil Plc and France’s Total SA developing its estimated 6.5 billion barrels of oil resources. Uganda’s army contribute troops for the African Union campaign fighting al-Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia and backed South Sudan’s government in that country’s civil war.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has warned that police brutality against government opponents risks undermining the vote’s credibility. Amnesty International has urged the disbanding of a civilian anti-crime force affiliated with the ruling party, which could number 1 million and whose members have allegedly carried out brutal assaults. Uganda’s electoral body on Wednesday accused opposition groups of trying to form illegal militias.
Besigye, who has lost three previous elections to Museveni, has complained of intimidation and said the vote won’t be free and fair, raising the prospect of unrest in the aftermath. Security forces teargassed his supporters in the center of the capital, Kampala, on Monday. Police said one person died in scuffles. The electoral commission, which is using a new biometric system to register voters, has pledged to oversee credible polls.