Burundi began voting in controversial parliamentary and local elections following overnight attacks on polling booths that killed at least three people. Protesters attacked voting stations in the capital Bujumbura and in other provinces, but polling equipment was not damaged, police reportedly said.
Deaths from the overnight attacks are the latest addition to the more than 70 deaths reported in weeks of violence and an abortive coup sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid to stay in power for a third term, News Agency of Nigeria reported.
Nkurunziza had announced in April that he would run in the presidential elections, scheduled for July 15, a decision that protesters say violates the country's constitution, which allows a candidate only two terms in power. However, Nkurunziza has denied the accusation by citing a constitutional court ruling, Al Jazeera reported.
About 3.8 million people are registered to vote in the polls, which the opposition and civil society groups are boycotting stating that the elections will not be free and fair, Al Jazeera reported. Officials in Burundi reportedly did not pay heed to calls from the international community to delay the polls while a senior court official reportedly said that he and others were pressured to rule in favor of Nkurunziza.
The weeks of unrest and political turmoil has forced various top officials -- including deputy vice-president Gervais Rufyikiri as well as members of the election commission and constitutional court -- to flee Burundi, Agence France-Presse reported.
Pie Ntavyohanyuma, head of Burundi's parliament, who along with 127,000 Burundians fled the country, condemned Nkurunziza’s “illegal” presidential bid, the Guardian reported.
The African Union said Sunday that it will not oversee the Burundi elections, according to Reuters.
"Noting that the necessary conditions are not met for the organisation of free, fair, transparent and credible elections... the AU Commission will not observe the local and parliamentary elections scheduled to take place this Monday," AU Commission Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma reportedly said, in a statement.