Burundians vote in parliamentary elections marred by unrest

AP News
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Posted: Jun 29, 2015 12:44 PM
Burundians vote in parliamentary elections marred by unrest

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Burundians voted Monday in parliamentary elections marked by an opposition boycott and the threat of violence in the capital.

The polls closed at 5 p.m. local time and "the elections went well," said Prospere Ntahorwamiye, a spokesman for the electoral commission. He said counting would start immediately and the results would probably be announced on Tuesday.

There was heavy security across the city.

In the Musaga neighborhood, which has seen violent protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term, few civilians were seen at the polls as mostly police and soldiers lined up to vote. No one was injured when a grenade exploded in the middle of the main road in Musaga, sending residents scampering for safety, said witness Pacifque Irabona.

About 3.8 million people had been expected to vote, according to the electoral commission, but it appears a boycott by 17 opposition groups kept the turnout low, especially in Bujumbura.

The voting took place despite calls by the international community for a postponement until there is a peaceful environment for credible elections.

Despite international pressure, Nkurunziza's government insisted an indefinite postponement would create a dangerous political vacuum that might cause even more chaos.

Bujumbura has suffered unrest since the ruling party announced on April 26 that Nkurunziza would be its candidate in presidential elections scheduled for July 15.

Nkurunziza's supporters say he is eligible for a third term because he was chosen by lawmakers — and not popularly elected — for his first term, and the constitutional court has ruled in the president's favor.

The street protests boiled over in mid-May, leading to an attempted military coup that was put down quickly.