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Social media overwhelmed as delays hamper Uganda elections

By Ed Adamczyk Follow @adamczyk_ed Contact the Author   |   Feb. 18, 2016 at 8:14 AM
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KAMPALA , Uganda, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Uganda began its presidential election Thursday with delayed openings at election stations, long lines at the polls and overwhelmed social media sites as voters took to the Internet.

Candidates in the election, regarded as the tightest in the East African country's history, include incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, 71, who led Uganda for 30 years despite term limits after his side won a guerilla war in 1986. Also running are former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, once a Museveni ally who was fired in 2014 when he attempted a presidential bid of his own, and former physician Kizza Besigye, who has publicly stated he does not expect the election to be fair.

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Police patrolled the capital, Kampala, to subdue frustrations caused by long lines at the polls. Godfrey Mutabazi of Uganda's communications ministry said Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites crashed because they were overwhelmed by traffic of users discussing the election.

Parliamentary and regional elections were also underway.

The electoral commission apologized for its slow delivery of election machinery to some areas, where polls remained unopen five hours after the scheduled start of the vote. The commission said voting hours would not be extended.

Mbabazi and Besigye have accused Museveni's entrenched administration of rampant corruption and inadequate economic policies. Other campaign issues include Uganda's high unemployment and poor government services.

A winning candidate needs 50 percent or more of the vote to avoid a runoff election with the candidate receiving the second-most votes.

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