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Burundi elections 'undemocratic'

Susan Houlton (AFP, Reuters)June 30, 2015

Criticism of Burundi's parliamentary elections continues, inside and outside the country. For the ruling party, they were a resounding success, for the opposition they had little to do with democracy.

Officials check people's voting cards
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/G. Ngingo

Counting at polling stations across Burundi was completed on Tuesday, one day after controversial parliamentary elections were held. The elections were boycotted by the opposition and the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy- Forces for the Defense of Democracy party (CNDD -FDD) is expected to win by a large majority. Throughout Tuesday votes were being collated and taken to larger centers for final tallies, after which results will be announced. They are expected on Wednesday or Thursday.

There were no observers from either the African Union or the European Union, since both bodies said conditions were not in place to ensure a fair vote. The United Nations did have international observers on the ground but said this should not be seen as a validation of the process.

Just two days before the election, UN Secretary-General Ban KIi-moon joined calls for it to be postponed.

The poll was preceded by weeks of violence and a failed coup attempt sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial bid for a third term. That presidential election is due to be held on July 15.

A man hurls a car tire towards a fire
Violent street protests marked the weeks preceding the electionsImage: Reuters/G. Tomasevic

Borders closed

Turnout was described by the election commission on Monday as "enormous," despite the fact that some 144,000 people have fled to neighboring countries to escape the violence.

Ruling party chief Willy Nyamitwe said the people had "responded massively" to the call to vote. DW's correspondent in the capital Bujumbura said turnout had been mixed. In areas hit by pre-election violence few residents made their way to the polling stations but in more peaceful areas of the city turnout was noticeable higher.

Over the weekend preceding the poll, more than 6,000 people arrived in Tanzania, said the spokesperson of the UN's refugee agency Melissa Fleming. The UNHCR estimates the total of Burundian refugees in Tanzania at around 66,000. Another 56,500 are in Rwanda, 11,500 in Democratic Republic of Congo and more than 9,000 in Uganda. Burundian officals closed the borders late Sunday, saying they would reopen them late Tuesday. Fleming said people still seeking to flee had resorted to using informal border crossings through the forest.

Election helpers wait at an empty polling station in Bujumbura
Few voters turned up at this polling station in BujumburaImage: Getty Images/AFP/P. Moore

Confidence and criticism

In a statement on Tuesday CNDD-FDD spokesman Daniel Gelase Ndsabirabe said the party was "proud of Burundians and especially party members who had demonstrated political maturity." They had shown they were "thirsty for elections."

However, the leader of one of the main opposition groups, the Burundians' Hope coalition, said the expected results in favor of ruling party candidates had little to do with reality since the poll did not fulfill the criteria for a democratic election. Speaking at a press conference, Agathon Rwasa accused the ruling party of preparing to release prefabricated results.