Burundi opposition candidates to boycott presidential poll

BUJUMBURA Tue Jun 1, 2010 10:29am EDT

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BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - Five opposition candidates said Tuesday they would boycott this month's presidential election in Burundi because they expected the vote to be rigged.

The five accused the electoral commission of failing to prevent fraud in last week's district elections, a poll widely seen as a litmus test for the incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza's popularity.

The June 28 presidential poll is expected to go ahead despite the boycott, contested by the president and one other candidate.

Thirteen opposition parties have disputed the result of the district elections, which saw the central African nation's ruling CNDD-FDD party win 64 percent of the vote. The National Electoral Commission (CENI) refused their demands for a re-run.

"We then decided to withdraw from the (presidential) competition so as not to waste time. We know for sure the cheating observed during the district elections will also happen in the presidential vote," Agathon Rwasa, a candidate from the Forces for National Liberation (FNL), a rebel group that has become a political party, told reporters.

European Union observers said the local-level vote, which preceded forthcoming presidential, parliamentary and senate elections, met international standards.

The FNL had obtained 14.15 percent of the vote, while UPRONA finished third with 6.25 percent.

CENI said the presidential elections would be held despite the boycott, with two candidates still standing.

One is Nkurunziza, himself a former rebel leader, who is widely tipped to win a second term. The other is Yves Sahinguvu, Nkurunziza's deputy from the coalition's UPRONA party.

Landlocked Burundi has enjoyed relative peace since the FNL, the last Hutu guerrilla group to lay down its weapons, agreed to join the government last year.

(Reporting by Patrick Nduwimana; editing by Richard Lough and Giles Elgood)

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