Burundi's Nkurunziza wins poll boycotted by rivals

Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term plunged the country into crisis.

FILE: Pierre Nkurunziza. Picture: AFP.

BUJUMBURA - Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza on Friday won a third term in office after the opposition boycotted the vote, a victory that leaves the east African nation politically divided and facing international isolation after months of unrest.

Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term had plunged Burundi into its biggest crisis since an ethnically charged civil war ended in 2005. The opposition says Nkurunziza's bid violates the constitution.

Nkurunziza won 69.41 percent of the 2.8 million votes cast, winning handsomely in the rural regions where most of Burundi's 10 million people live. His nearest rival, Agathon Rwasa, took 18.99 percent of the vote.

Extremely low turnout in Bujumbura, where for weeks the protests against Nkurunziza's presidency took place in the run up to the vote, indicate opposition to Nkurunziza's presidency remains strong. Turnout in the capital stood at 29.75 percent against a national average of 73.44 percent.

African leaders and Western powers had called for the delay of Tuesday's vote due to growing insecurity. Dozens were killed before the 21 July election, which saw weeks of demonstrations, a failed coup and clashes between rebel soldiers and the army.

Pierre Claver Ndayicariye, head of the electoral commission, announced the presidential results in a press conference in Bujumbura.

Regional leaders and Western diplomats fear Burundi could slide back into civil war if tensions are not resolved. That is a frightening prospect for a region scarred by the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, where about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. Burundi has a similar ethnic makeup.

The United States has threatened to cut aid and the European Union said it was preparing sanctions.

More than 175,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries to seek refuge and the United Nations has warned more than half a million Burundians may end up leaving the country if the crisis persists.