The polls have closed and the vote count has started after Burundi's controversial presidential elections. Violent protests killing dozens and skepticism over the legitimacy of incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza’s choice to run for third term have marred the polls.
Electoral Commission President Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye said the election turnout was considerably weak in the capital Bujumbura and the southwestern Bururi province, but gave an overall figure of 74 percent of the 3.8 million eligible voters in Burundi to be present at ballot boxes.
Nkurunziza is widely expected to win a third consecutive term, given his rival candidates have so little political impact in the country’s political atmosphere.
John Kirby, the US State Department spokesman, said the Burundian vote "will further discredit the government," because the elections lacked sufficient credibility as the Nkurunziza government's legitimacy is questioned.
Nkurunziza's main rival, Agathon Rwasa, is registered as an independent candidate because his political party, the National Liberation Forces (Forces pour la Libération Nationale, FNL) is not recognised by the government. Several opposition parties have announced they’ll boycott the elections.
"The government has opted to isolate itself and go ahead with pseudo-elections," prominent opposition figure Leonce Ngendakumana was quoted by the AFP, after "last ditch" reconciliation talks were mediated by Uganda, but later collapsed on Sunday.
Another opposition figure, Jean Minani, accused the government of being "very irresponsible."
Burundian officials said that they do not expect the results to be announced until Thursday.
On Tuesday, two people died overnight, including a police officer and a civilian, hours before the ballot boxes opened.
Nkurunziza’s supporters claim he’s eligible for a third term because he was chosen by legislators and not popularly elected for his first term, and the country’s constitutional court ruled in his favour, maintaining the legal status for his third term bid.
"The Burundian people are allowed to vote or to choose someone they believe in," said Nkurunziza to reporters as he arrived to vote in his home village of Buye on bike.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, has called on authorities to do all in their power to ensure security and a peaceful atmosphere during the election.
"He [Ban] further calls on all parties to refrain from any acts of violence that could compromise the stability of Burundi and the region," his spokesman said in a statement on his behalf.
The bloody unrest over Nkurunziza’s third term bid sparked violent protests and plunged the country in an unprecedented crisis, the worst since the end of the civil war in 2006 which killed over 300,000 people.
Tensions in Burundi have forced more than 150,000 people to flee this year to neighbouring African nations. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Monday about a thousand people were fleeing each day into Tanzania, fearing their country may again sink in dangerous unrest.
Protests started in April and a failed coup attempt in May while the president was abroad was staged by army generals, most of whom were later arrested after Nkurunziza returned to the capital to reclaim his office.
A peace deal let Nkurunzıza to become president in 2005, after he led a Hutu rebel group fighting the Tutsi dominated army.
Fighting between Burundi's Hutu majority and Tutsi minority has flared up regularly since the country gained independence from Belgium in 1962.