Burundi: President Nkurunziza wins controversial third term

World Today

File: A police officer stands outside a room where tallied ballots from the Tuesday presidential elections were stored in Bujumbura, Burundi, on Wednesday July 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has won a third term in office, an electoral official announced Friday, amid controversy over whether his new term is constitutional.

Nkurunziza won 69 percent of the vote while his closest rival, Agathon Rwasa, got 19 percent, said electoral chief Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye.

There were neither celebrations nor protests in the streets of Bujumbura, the capital, after the results were announced.

Nkurunziza, 51, was expected to be re-elected because he did not face a strong challenge in Tuesday’s polls after some opposition groups boycotted the election. Rwasa, the leading opposition candidate, said his campaign had been hindered by officials.

The United States and Britain condemned the elections as not being credible because of violence, intimidation, media restrictions and questions over the legitimacy of a third term for Nkurunziza.

Burundi has been rocked by violence since April after the ruling party announced Nkurunziza would run for another term. Streets protests have left at least 100 people dead. More than 170,000 refugees have fled the country fearing electoral violence, said the U.N. refugee agency

The protests led to an attempted military coup in mid-May which was quickly put down by pro-Nkurunziza forces.

Many fear that Nkurunziza’s determination to stay in power can trigger widespread violence in the poor central African country of 10 million that has a history of civil strife.

Earlier this month the Burundi government said the army had put down a rebellion in the country’s north killing 31 insurgents and arresting 171 others.

“Burundian authorities repressed demonstrations as if they were an insurrection, and now the country appears to be on the verge of conflict,” Amnesty International said in a report Thursday.

Nkurunziza’s efforts to stay in power show a wider problem in the region of leaders seeking to overstay their time in power by any means necessary, said Jeff Smith of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

Opponents say Nkurunziza must retire because the constitution limits the president to two terms. But the president’s supporters say he is eligible for a third term because he was chosen by lawmakers — and not popularly elected — for his first term in 2005.

Report by Associated Press