Polls have closed and vote counting is under way in Uganda’s tense presidential election that pits longtime President Yoweri Museveni against opposition frontrunner Bobi Wine, a pop star-turned-opposition leader.

The run-up to Thursday’s vote was plagued by the worst political violence in years, with more than 50 people killed by security forces amid crackdowns on opposition rallies, as well as the repeated intimidation and arrest of opposition figures. Police say their actions are necessary to ensure compliance with COVID-19 restrictions.

Internet access has been cut off, and there are fears of unrest as security forces try to stop supporters of leading opposition challenger Bobi Wine from monitoring polling stations.

At polling stations in Kampala visited by Al Jazeera, voting began more than 60 minutes late after election materials did not arrive on time.

Museveni, who has wielded power since 1986, is seeking a sixth term against a stiff challenge from Bobi Wine, whose popularity among a youthful population has rattled the 76-year-old former rebel leader. Nine other challengers are also trying to unseat Museveni.

More than 18 million people have registered to take part in the polls. A candidate must win more than 50 percent to avoid a runoff vote. Parliamentary polls are also being held.

Wine says personal phone blocked

Presidential hopeful Wine posted on Twitter that his phone and that of his spouse were “blocked” and he was unable to receive or make calls.

“I know this is to stop me from communicating to our agents and coordinators,” he added, asking his supporters to be vigilant.

In Kampala, vote counting was under way after Ugandans voted earlier in the highly contested presidential election.

Eric Mutenga, a coordinating agent at the Nakasero 1 voting station in Kampala, said vote counting was ongoing without problems.

“It’s been quite not chaotic like expected at this particular centre,” he said, adding that the process had gone “smoothly”.

Source: Aljazeera