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Burundi court affirms ruling party candidate’s presidential victory

Burundi court affirms ruling party candidate’s presidential victory
Image of the Burundi flag painted on a brick wall. (Photo: Pixabay)

NAIROBI, June 5 (Reuters) - Burundi's constitutional court has said last month's elections were flawless and upheld the victory of the ruling party's presidential candidate, dismissing a complaint brought by the vote's runner-up.

The vote was the first competitive presidential election in Burundi since a civil war erupted in 1993. The ruling CNDD-FDD party’s candidate, retired general Evariste Ndayishimiye, was running against opposition leader Agathon Rwasa and five others.

“The constitutional court rules that the presidential election held on May 20 was regular, that Evariste Ndayishimiye is the president-elect,” the court said in a ruling late on Thursday.

Incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza will stay in office until August, when President-elect Ndayishimiye will take over and start a seven-year term.

Burundi’s election commission said Ndayishimiye had won the election with 69% of votes cast.

The commission said Rwasa had garnered 24% of the vote, amid what it said was huge, peaceful turnout.

The vote had been preceded by political violence, including the arrest, torture and murder of opposition activists, according to a local rights group.

Rwasa, the candidate for the CNL party, filed the case in late May challenging the election outcome.

He said he had evidence that people had voted using dead voters’ identities, cited the use of an electoral register that has never been published by the electoral body, and made accusations of ballot box stuffing.

“No irregularities that could call into question the ballot boxes’ results were noted either at the level of the voting, the counting or while establishing the voting results,” the court said.

The court, topmost in Burundi, also ruled in 2015 that Nkurunziza could run for a third term, to which the opposition objected. Nkurunziza won that election, which the opposition boycotted.

That election sparked violent protests, pushing hundreds of thousands of Burundians into exile. The United Nations documented hundreds of killings, and the torture and gang-rape of opposition activists.

The government denies accusations of rights violations.

May’s vote was also held in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ahead of the election, Burundi expelled its head of mission of the World Health Organization, who had criticised all parties for holding rallies despite the pandemic.

Burundi has 63 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with one death and 33 recoveries. (Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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