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Africa

Turnout low as opposition boycotts elections

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-07-23

President Pierre Nkurunziza's ruling party stood unopposed in Burundi's parliamentary polls on Friday, capping a drawn-out electoral process boycotted by the opposition and plagued by violence and tensions.

AFP - Burundi on Friday held a parliamentary poll, the latest instalment in a chaotic electoral marathon which has been boycotted by the opposition and heightened tensions.
  
Certain victory for President Pierre Nkurunziza's ruling party and the fear of violence threatened turnout however.
  
Police patrols have been intensified in Bujumbura and the main beach on Lake Tanganyika was closed to the public.
  
"After the attacks in Uganda, security measures have been reinforced across the country," army spokesman Gaspard Baratuza told AFP.
  
"For the moment, no disruption was reported. Voters are going to polling stations quietly. The system is generally the same as for the previous votes." Polls close at 1600 GMT.
  
Somalia's Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab group claimed responsibility for July 11 suicide blasts that ripped through crowds watching the World Cup final in the Ugandan capital, killing 76 people.
  
The Shebab said the bombings were in retaliation for Uganda's role in the African Union force in Somalia and warned Burundi, which also has troops in Somalia, it could be the next target.
  
Despite the security fears, nothing seems likely to stop the president's party winning the new election.
  
In May, official local election results gave Nkurunziza's ruling CNDD-FDD party a comfortable edge, prompting the opposition to cry foul, alleging rigging by the regime and bias by the electoral commission.
  
All the main opposition groups boycotted the June presidential election, which Nkurunziza won with more than 90 percent of the vote.
  
Former rebel leader Agathon Rwasa, who had been regarded as his main rival, went into hiding and later explained in an audio message that he feared for his life after claiming the polls were fixed.
  
In Bujumbura's southern Kanyosha district, one group of friends said that they planned to shun polling stations and democracy has deserted Burundi.
  
"There is no democracy with a single party. This has never been seen anywhere," said a man who gave his name as Yves.
  
"That is why I refuse to vote in this third election. That is why many people are not going (to vote)," he added, his friends nodding in agreement.
  
The central African state had hoped the polls would prove its democratic credentials and consolidate a fledgling peace deal but they have instead left the political landscape in ruins and heightened fears of civil strife.
  
"I want peace and security, to get devolopment and freedom to move around without the fear of being arrested because we are in the opposition," said Gerard, a member of Rwasa's former rebel National Liberation Forces (FNL).
  
The international community largely endorsed the results of the May local polls despite the fraud claims and urged the opposition to end their boycott and return to the fray for the presidential vote.
  
But the country has since witnessed a wave of grenade attacks and sporadic violence which the regime has blamed on opposition movements.
  
More than 100 opposition supporters and officials were arrested in recent weeks and a spokesman for the opposition had warned that their release was a pre-requisite for the end of the boycott.
  
The crisis has raised fears that Burundi was slipping back towards the civil war that tore the country apart between 1993 and 2006, killing 300,000 people.
  
Rwasa's FNL were the last active rebel group until they laid down their arms last year, but Burundian police said Thursday it had uncovered an arms cache and arrested a dealer who was planning to supply a Tutsi rebel group near the Congolese border.
  
 

Date created : 2010-07-23

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