Vote count under way in Burundi’s controversial poll

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President Pierre Nkurunziza on his way to cast his ballot

 

Vote counting is currently underway in Burundi after controversial presidential elections came to an end on Tuesday. Incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza is widely expected to win a third consecutive term.

Electoral commission officials are leading  party agents in counting ballots cast while separating those of Nkurunziza and opposition party leaders whose names appeared on the ballot papers even if they had boycotted the exercise.

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The electoral commission insists that the opposition officials did not formally withdraw from the elections and any votes for them would be counted.

Ballots will continue to be tallied on Wednesday, but officials have said that they do not expect the results to be announced until Thursday.

About 3.8 million Burundians were eligible to vote in the polls, which the opposition and civil society groups are boycotting, claiming they will not be free and fair.

Electoral Commission president Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye said turnout was low in Bujumbura and southwestern Bururi provinc,e but gave an overall figure of 74 percent, comparable to that for last month’s general elections.

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A voter at a polling station

 

Official vote results are expected Thursday. But the elections have been roundly criticized as not free or fair, after the government ignored an opposition boycott and calls from the international community to postpone the election due to the unrest.

Officials reported at least three people dead — two policemen and an opposition official — in a night of gunfire and explosions before the election.

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Voters casting their ballots

 

Opponents of Nkurunziza say his bid violates the constitution and a peace deal that ended Burundi’s civil war in 2005, yet the president, almost sure to win given the opposition boycott, cites a court ruling saying he can run again.

Some 80,000 Burundian refugees have entered Tanzania since Nkurunziza announced in April he would seek a third term, the International Rescue Committee and Save the Children said.