Burundi counting votes in presidential election

BUJUMBURA: Vote counting is underway and results are expected Thursday for Burundi's election amid unrest over President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term, which critics charge is unconstitutional.

About 74 percent of Burundi's 3.8 million registered voters cast their ballots, electoral commission President Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye said Wednesday.

Nkurunziza is expected to win after some opposition groups boycotted the poll. Main opposition figure Agathon Rwasa said his attempts to campaign had been frustrated by the government.

Nkurunziza, 51, a former rebel in the country's civil war, said after casting his ballot Tuesday that the election is a decisive step for the country's democracy.

But the U.S. said the election will not be credible as it has been tainted by the government's harassment of opposition and civic groups, closing down of media outlets and intimidation of voters.

More than 100 people have died in protests since the ruling party announced in April that Nkurunziza would run for a third term. The demonstrations triggered an attempted coup in mid-May which was quickly put down by pro-Nkurunziza forces. Earlier this month the government said it crushed a rebellion in northern Burundi, killing 31 insurgents and arresting 171 others

Opponents say Nkurunziza's bid for a third term goes against the country's constitution and a 2006 peace agreement, which limit the president to two terms.

Many fear that the Nkurunziza's efforts to stay in power to could spark renewed conflict in Burundi, which since independence from Belgium in 1962 has had four coups and a civil war which killed 250,000.