May 23, 2020 / 9:52 AM / 3 months ago

Burundi police detain more than 200 opposition election observers

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Burundian police detained more than 200 opposition electoral observers during this week’s election, the spokesman for the main opposition National Freedom Council (CNL) told Reuters on Friday, alleging voting irregularities.

Burundian police officers escort the opposition leader and presidential candidate Agathon Rwasa as he arrives at a voting station during the presidential, legislative and communal council elections, under the simmering political violence and the growing threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ngozi, Burundi May 20, 2020. REUTERS/Clovis Guy Siboniyo

Wednesday’s election, the first competitive presidential election since civil war erupted in 1993, is meant to usher in the first democratic transfer of power in 58 years of independence.

There was widespread international criticism of the last election in 2015, which the opposition boycotted, when President Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term.

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

The ruling CNDD-FDD party’s candidate, retired general Evariste Ndayishimiye, ran against opposition leader Agathon Rwasa and five others.

Nkurunziza, whose government has repeatedly been accused of rights abuses, will step down after 15 years in power.

Police were not immediately available to comment. An official at the justice ministry, who asked not to be identified as he was not authorised to talk to the media, said the detainees were currently on trial.

“The voting was marred with several irregularities: arrests of over 200 CNL (observers), intimidation, people who voted several times or under the names of dead ones, refugees or prisoners,” said Terence Manirambona, the spokesman for the CNL.

The electoral commission said the allegations of fraud had to be addressed by the courts and not by them. The government did not respond to requests for comment about the accusations.

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

Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; editing by Nick Macfie

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