Burundians await poll results, opposition alleges fraud

Opposition leader Agaton Rwasa said electoral observers from his party were chased away from some polling stations.
Members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) show voters the empty ballot boxes before opening a polling station during the presidential and general elections in Ngozi, northern Burundi, on May 20, 2020. (Photo by – / AFP)

Burundians are currently awaiting results of the country’s general election held Wednesday which had many voters coming out to cast their ballot despite the threat of coronavirus.

Polling stations had closed across Burundi in a largely incident-free process keenly watched by local and foreign observers.

The polls will usher in the post-Pierre Nkurunziza era. In what could be the first competitive presidential election in Burundi since a civil war erupted in 1993.  5.1 million registered voters chose between Nkurunziza’s handpicked heir and frontrunner, 52-year-old general Evariste Ndayishimiye, main opposition competitor Agathon Rwasa, and five other candidates

Ruling CNDD-FDD party’s candidate, retired General Evariste Ndayishimiye, is running against opposition leader Agathon Rwasa and five others.

But voters also cast ballots for lawmakers and local level representatives. Internet connectivity for social media and messaging apps were blocked early Wednesday morning, a Reuters report said.

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Burundians stood in long lines outside polling stations, which opened shortly after 6 am, most centers had hand washing points for people arriving to vote and election officials had some protective equipments in some instances.

After casting his ballot, Nkurunziza praised Burundians for the peaceful conduct of the process which he reiterated had been fully funded with local finances. He also stressed that politics was meant to serve the greater benefit of the populace.

Opposition leader Agaton Rwasa said electoral observers from his party were chased away from the polling stations.

“There is a massive electoral fraud. Our representatives, mandated to follow the electoral process to the end, have been chased. So how can you agree on results counted out of your sights?” he told Reuters.

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He said his party’s election observers were chased away from some polling stations.

His National Freedom Council (CNL) party has also accused supporters of the ruling CNDD-FDD party of multiple voting. Neither the electoral commission nor the ruling party has commented on the allegations.

Preliminary results are expected by May 25.

The election took place despite an outbreak of coronavirus. Burundi has so far recorded 42 cases – 21 active cases, 20 recoveries and one death as of May 21, 2020.

Authorities largely ignored protocols by allowing mass rallies to take place despite the World Health Organization’s Africa head openly warning against it.

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 There were few international election monitors after the government said they would have to spend 14 days in quarantine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Full results are expected within a week. If no one wins 50% in the first round, then a run-off is held within a fortnight.

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