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UN observers say Burundi elections were not free

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A U.N. observer mission concluded Thursday that this week’s parliamentary elections in Burundi were not “free, credible and inclusive.”

A preliminary statement from the observers said the electoral process took place “in a tense political crisis” and “fundamental freedoms of participation, assembly, expression, opinion and information” suffered increasing restrictions during the campaign and as Monday’s election approached.

The mission noted that the African Union and two regional organizations expressed similar concerns.

Burundi has been hit by violence since the April announcement that President Pierre Nkurunziza would run for a third term in presidential elections set for July 15. Protesters say Nkurunziza must go because the constitution limits the president to two terms, but the president’s supporters say he is eligible for a third term because he was chosen by lawmakers — and not popularly elected — for his first term.

The U.N. Security Council was briefed Thursday on Burundi by the U.N. special representative for Central Africa, the assistant secretary-general for human rights and the deputy head of the U.N. observer mission.

New Zealand’s U.N. Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, the current council president, said members expressed concern “at the preliminary assessment that the minimum conditions for free, fair, transparent and credible elections were not met.”

The Security Council authorized the U.N. mission, known as MENUB, to observe all elections in Burundi and the statement said it will continue to watch the remaining elections.

From its arrival on Jan. 1, the mission said it observed media freedom restrictions and violations of human rights and other fundamental freedoms including restrictions on opposition campaigning, arbitrary detentions, and the failure to disarm youth groups aligned with political parties.

Regrettably, the observers said, there was no agreement to improve these conditions and opposition parties decided to boycott the polls.

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