BURUNDI: Presidential Voting Commence Amid Unrest and Violence

Polling stations have opened in Burundi’s controversial presidential elections with Pierre Nkurunziza widely expected to win a third consecutive term.

Shortly before voting started on Tuesday, at least two people – a policeman and a civilian – were killed, according to witnesses, in a string of explosions and gunfire in the capital Bujumbura, the epicentre of three months of anti-government protests.

On Tuesday, Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Bujumbura, said that one of the opposition members was also killed overnight in the city’s Nyakabiga neighbourhood. The incident prompted a big crowd to gather there in protest in the morning.

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

The opposition have denounced the candidacy of the incumbent president as unconstitutional and a violation of the 2006 peace deal that ended a dozen years of civil war and ethnic massacres in 2006.

The nation’s constitutional court has ruled in the president’s favour, however, maintaining he is eligible for a third term because he was chosen by legislators – and not popularly elected – for his first term.

“Despite a facade of pluralism, this is an election with only one candidate, where Burundians already know the outcome,” said Thierry Vircoulon, from the International Crisis Group, a think-tank that has warned the situation has all the ingredients to kick-start a renewed civil war.
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