Polling station closed across Burundi on Wednesday in a largely incident free process in keenly watched general elections.
The polls will usher in the post-Pierre Nkurunziza era. But voters also cast ballots for lawmakers and local level representatives. Internet connectivity for social media and messaging apps were blocked early Wednesday morning.
Burundians stood in long lines outside polling stations, which opened shortly after six am, most centers had hand washing points for people arriving to vote and election officials had some protective equipments in some instances.
After casting his ballot, Nkurunziza praised Burundians for the peaceful conduct of the process which he reiterated had been fully funded with local finances. He also stressed that politics was meant to serve the greater benefit of the populace.
He arrived at the polling station on a bicycle surrounded by his guards, he wore a track suit of his club Aleluya FC with a brown cow boy hat with the Burundian flag. Preliminary results are expected by May 25.
The election took place despite an outbreak of coronavirus. Burundi has so far recorded 42 cases – 21 active cases, 20 recoveries and one death as of May 21, 2020.
Authorities largely ignored protocols by allowing mass rallies to take place despite the World Health Organization’s Africa head openly warning against it.
Voters were back to the ballots after five years of turmoil sparked by Nkurunziza’s bid for a disputed third term in 2015. The vote unleashed unrest that left at least 1,200 dead and saw 400,000 flee the country.
Meanwhile, main opposition candidate, Agathon Rwasa, has protested what he says is fraud in Wednesday’s general election. He said his party’s election observers were chased away from some polling stations.
His National Freedom Council (CNL) party has also accused supporters of the ruling CNDD-FDD party of multiple voting. Neither the electoral commission nor the ruling party has commented on the allegations.
In the presidential vote, 5.1 million registered voters are to choose between Nkurunziza’s handpicked heir and frontrunner, 52-year-old general Evariste Ndayishimiye, main opposition competitor Agathon Rwasa, and five other candidates.