BUJUMBURA, Burundi — Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has won a third term in office, an electoral official announced Friday, amid controversy over whether his new term is constitutional.
Nkurunziza won 69 percent of the vote, and his closest rival, Agathon Rwasa, got 19 percent, said electoral chief Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye.
There were neither celebrations nor protests in the streets of Bujumbura, the capital, after the results were announced.
Nkurunziza, 51, was expected to be reelected because he did not face a strong challenge in Tuesday’s polls after some opposition groups boycotted the election. Rwasa, the leading opposition candidate, said his campaign had been hindered by officials.
The United States and Britain condemned the elections as not being credible because of violence, intimidation, media restrictions and questions over the legitimacy of a third term for Nkurunziza.
Opponents say Nkurunziza must retire because the constitution limits the president to two terms. But supporters say the former Hutu rebel leader is eligible for a third term because he was chosen by lawmakers — not popularly elected — for his first term in 2005.
Burundi has been rocked by violence since the ruling party announced in April that Nkurunziza would seek another term. Streets protests have left at least 100 people dead. More than 170,000 refugees have fled the country fearing electoral violence, said the U.N. refugee agency
The protests led to an attempted military coup in mid-May that was quickly put down by pro-Nkurunziza forces.
Many fear that Nkurunziza’s determination to stay in power could trigger widespread violence in the poor central African country of 10 million that has a history of civil strife. Earlier this month, the Burundi government said the army had put down a rebellion in the country’s north, killing 31 insurgents and arresting 171 others.
“Burundian authorities repressed demonstrations as if they were an insurrection, and now the country appears to be on the verge of conflict,” Amnesty International said in a report Thursday.
Nkurunziza’s efforts to stay in power show a wider problem of regional leaders seeking to overstay their time in office by any means necessary, said Jeff Smith of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.