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EU deplores absence of competition in Burundi vote

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(BUJUMBURA) - European Union election monitors on Wednesday deplored the absence of competition in Monday's presidential election in Burundi where the outgoing president was the only candidate.

"The mission deplores the absence of multi-party competition," Renate Weber, the Euro MP heading the team told journalists.

The six opposition candidates each pulled out of the presidential race to protest the results of the May 24 local elections.

Agathon Rwasa, the most prominent among them, and the biggest challenger to the outgoing president Pierre Nkurunziza, went into hiding a week ago.

Rwasa, who heads the Hutu National Liberation Forces (FNL), has accused government security forces of trying to hunt him down.

As well as the opposition withdrawal, the EU team cited "the opposition's loss of confidence in the electoral commission", the "curbs placed by the government on the freedom of association and expression" and a "lack of willingness to engage in dialogue".

The electoral commission is expected to announce the results of the poll later Wednesday.

The EU observers deplored the "deteriorating political climate" prevailing but "praised the peacefulness" of the vote.

"Despite a tense and sometimes violent context, the Burundian people were able to exercise their right to vote," the observers said.

They accused the ruling party, however, of having used state resources with impunity throughout its electoral campaign.

Thirteen opposition parties accused the ruling party of having used "massive fraud" to win the May 24 local elections.

Rwasa, who, according to a Burundian security official is believed to have crossed into the east of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with the help of local militia, has circulated a recorded statement from an undiclosed hiding place.

"They're looking for me because I told the truth, because I said publicly that I don't accept the results of the local elections," Rwasa said in an audio cassette that his entourage said Tuesday night was authentic.

He did not say what his projects for the future are.

At least 12 people have been killed and more than 60 injured in a series of grenade attacks and violent incidents since the local elections.

The latest incident, which left two dead, took place in the night of Tuesday to Wednesday to the south of the capital Bujumbura.

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