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Nkurunziza Set to Win Third Term as Burundi’s President

  • VOA News

Polls have closed in Burundi's presidential election, which incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza is certain to win after running unopposed.

Most of the polling stations opened at 6am, but voter turnout was low in neighborhoods rocked by weeks of violent protests.

In the neighborhood of Cibitoke only 15 people out of 400 registered voters showed up to cast ballots by midday.

Electoral officials told VOA there had been some gunfire around the polling station a few hours after voting began.

Overnight, gunfire and explosions were heard in the capital of Bujumbura, and at least two people were killed, one of them a policeman.

Witnesses said polling stations were much busier in the president's home village of Buye and in other pro-Nkurunziza parts of the country.

The election went ahead despite an opposition boycott, months of anti-government protests and appeals from the international community for the president to step aside.

President Pierre Nkurunziza arrives riding a bicycle, accompanied by first lady Denise Bucumi Nkurunziza, right, to cast his vote for the presidential election, in Ngozi, Burundi, July 21, 2015.

President Pierre Nkurunziza arrives riding a bicycle, accompanied by first lady Denise Bucumi Nkurunziza, right, to cast his vote for the presidential election, in Ngozi, Burundi, July 21, 2015.

Critics said Nkurunziza should not be eligible to serve another term, but Burundi's constitutional court has ruled he is eligible because he was chosen by lawmakers, and not popularly elected, for his first term.

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday that by going ahead with the election, Burundi's government could lose legitimacy in the eyes of its people and might unravel the Arusha Agreement that ended the country's civil war.

It warned the U.S. would review all aspects of the U.S.-Burundi relationship not yet suspended, and may impose visa restrictions on those who promote violence.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on authorities to "ensure security and a peaceful atmosphere during the election" and for all parties in Burundi to resume dialogue.

Security forces stand guard at the polling station in Cibitoke neighborhood, Bujumbura. The station experienced low voter turnout after the sounds of gunfire were heard around the center.

Security forces stand guard at the polling station in Cibitoke neighborhood, Bujumbura. The station experienced low voter turnout after the sounds of gunfire were heard around the center.

U.N. advisers monitored Tuesday's vote, which ended at 4 p.m. (1300 GMT). Nearly 3.8 million people were eligible to vote.

Voters' opinions

A VOA reporter saw one man who had voted try to remove the indelible ink from his hands for fear of reprisals.

"They are those who don’t want us to vote, they will cut my finger," he said. "They are [after] those who have gone to vote.”

However, some voters were optimistic.

Furaha Joseline said, "I came out to vote because there is security in the polling station and in the streets and coming here today makes me feel safe."

Others, though, said the vote will not change anything in the country.

"Our only hope is God," one man named Diego said.

President votes

Flanked by bodyguards jogging or walking alongside him, Nkurunziza cycled to a polling station early Tuesday in his northern home village of Buye, which was also filled with soldiers.

He lined up with others to cast his ballot, and before pedaling off, told reporters the election was to "allow the Burundian people to vote or to choose someone they believe in."

The presidential election follows a parliamentary vote last month that Nkurunziza's party easily won.

The opposition also boycotted that vote, which was criticized internationally for not being free or fair.

Burundi’s National Election workers check the name of a voter in Cibitoke neighborhood, one of the areas worst hit by weeks of deadly protests in the capital, Bujumbura.

Burundi’s National Election workers check the name of a voter in Cibitoke neighborhood, one of the areas worst hit by weeks of deadly protests in the capital, Bujumbura.

Opposition candidates expressed the same about the presidential election, saying widespread intimidation and the threat of violence prevent the country from holding a fair vote.

With Nkurunziza as the only candidate, national electoral commission spokesman Prosper Ntahorwamiye said it is uncertain when the results would be announced.

Nkurunziza, 51, has been president of Burundi since 2005.

The political tension brought about by the election worried neighboring Rwanda, which has the same ethnic mix and suffered a genocide in 1994 that killed 800,000, mostly Tutsis as well as moderate Hutus.

More than 170,000 Burundians have fled the nation of 10 million to refugee camps in Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Dozens of people have been killed in weeks of demonstrations, a failed coup and clashes between rebel soldiers and the army.

Mohammed Yusuf contributed to this report from Bujumbura. Some material for this report came from AP, Reuters and AFP.

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