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Museveni enjoys early lead but many still to vote

19 February 2016, 13:51

Kampala - Uganda's veteran President Yoweri Museveni has a solid lead in the country's chaotic elections, early results showed Friday, even as people were still queueing at dozens of polling stations to cast their vote.

Thursday's presidential and parliamentary votes were disrupted in the capital Kampala by the late arrival of ballot boxes and papers, angry demonstrations by frustrated voters, police use of tear gas and the brief arrest of an opposition candidate.

Preliminary results released by the Electoral Commission from just over a third of polling centres nationwide gave the 71-year-old Museveni a clear 63 percent of the vote.

The former rebel fighter faced a challenge from seven candidates but is expected to easily win re-election for fifth term in office and extend his 30-year rule of the east African country.

Results announced so far give leading opposition challenger Kizza Besigye, who was briefly held by police on Thursday in a move condemned by the United States, 33 percent of the vote.

But 36 polling stations in the capital and the surrounding Wakiso district were to reopen on Friday because of the problems on voting day.

The Commonwealth Observer Group monitoring the vote had described the delays as "inexcusable" and warned they would not inspire trust in the process.

Counting is nevertheless under way at 28,000 other stations across the country where voting passed off smoothly.

The Citizens Election Observers Network-Uganda (CEON-U) said the election had been "relatively peaceful" but noted "some serious shortcomings in adherence to (international) standards."

Over 15 million Ugandans were registered to vote for both a president and members of parliament, with 290 seats being contested by candidates from 29 political parties.

The leading presidential candidate requires more than 50 percent of votes cast to avoid a run-off.

In the Kampala suburb of Ggaba -- where riot police had used tear gas on Thursday to disperse crowds of frustrated voters -- queues formed soon after dawn on Friday.

One young voter, a student who was caught up in Thursday's chaos and only gave his name as Ronnie, said he arrived early and was confident he would be able to finally cast his vote.

"I'm old enough so I must honour my vote," said the 22-year old, who was casting his ballot for the first time.

A 42-year old man called Isma said he had successfully voted.

"We have already started receiving results, which is a little bit in favour of the current government, and we are just waiting to see how things go," he said.

Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) told AFP he was attempting to bust a police-run election rigging operation when he was detained.

He said he had "very reliable information, corroborated information that there was a house in a suburb of the city... where the operation of rigging the elections is centred."

"It was very clear to us that this was a police operation," Besigye said.

Kampala's police spokesman Patrick Onyango dismissed the allegation, saying: "The logic here does not add up by any reason."

He said Besigye was "apprehended for criminal trespass and later released on police bond" and escorted to his home.

With Kampala traditionally an opposition stronghold and with many sceptical over the impartiality of an electoral commission run by a chairman who has presided over two previous controversial victories for Museveni, some see sabotage rather than incompetence in the election day chaos.

"Why, here in Kampala where the electoral commission resides, would be the ones not to receive ballot papers which could even be carried on someone's head and walked to the polling stations from their headquarters?" said Besigye.

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