, KAMPALA, Feb 18 – Polls opened in Uganda’s presidential and parliamentary elections Thursday, but several stations in the capital were delayed awaiting ballot papers, an AFP reporter said.
Voting was due to begin at 07:00 am (0400 GMT) but, despite queues forming outside polling booths, many had still not opened over an hour later.
President Yoweri Museveni faces a challenge from seven candidates but is widely predicted to win a fifth term, with the 71-year-old former rebel fighter who seized power in 1986 entering his fourth decade in power.
“Uganda Decides,” the New Vison newspaper headline read. “Your vote counts,” the Daily Monitor front-page said.
In the Kololo district of the capital Kampala, around 50 people waited to vote, but election officials had not turned up an hour after polling was meant to have begun.
Motorbike taxi driver Etima Karim, 35, said he wanted opposition leader candidate Kizza Besigye to win.
“He has to change things like health, hospitals and roads,” Karim said as he waited for the polling station to open, criticising the delay in starting to vote.
Voting had begun in other stations across the city, however, including at the large Owino market, an AFP reporter said.
Internet access was unusually poor in Kampala, meaning many people found it difficult to access social media, including Facebook and WhatsApp, although there was no information as to what was causing the blockage.
Over 15 million Ugandans are registered to vote, casting ballots in over 28,000 polling stations for both a president and members of parliament, with 290 seats being contested by candidates from 29 political parties.
Over 150,000 police, soldiers and other security forces have been deployed to ensure tight security, election officials have said.
Polls are due to close at 04:00 pm (1300 GMT).
Initial results are expected as early as Saturday afternoon with the leading candidate requiring more than 50 percent of votes cast to avoid a second round run-off.