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Burundi votes in controversial presidential election

[JURIST] Burundi polls opened [ARIB report, in French] on Tuesday for the controversial election where President Pierre Nkurunziza [BBC profile] is running for his third term. Nkurunziza's opponents have boycotted the election, claiming it is unconstitutional for a president to seek third term. In Bujumbura, Burundi's capital, citizens rioted against the election with explosions and gunfire Monday night. Also on Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] urged all parties to refrain from violence [statement] that would destabilize Burundi and the region in wake of the election. According to the UN [UN News Centre report], unrest erupted on April 26 in Bujumbura after ruling party Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces pour la défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD) [party website, in French] elected Nkurunziza on April 25 as its candidate for the June 26 presidential election, which was postponed to July 15, then July 21.

The unrest in Burundi intensified in May after the Constitutional Court ruled that he could seek a third term [JURIST report] in office without violating the country's constitution, which states that presidents shall be universally elected into office for a term of five years and can renew the term once. Those opposing Nkurunziza's bid for a third presidential term claim that both the constitution and the Arusha peace deal [agreement, PDF] that ended the 2005 civil war state that no one should be president for more than 10 years. Those backing Nkurunziza claim that this does not apply to him since he was not voted in for his first term but selected by lawmakers. Earlier this month UN observers said [JURIST report] that the parliamentary elections held in Burundi were unfair, not free and led to human rights violations. In June Burundi opposition leader Agathon Rwasa said [JURIST report] that a presidential election must be held by August so that a newly elected government is in place by the time Nkurunziza's term ends August 26.

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