Burundi: All eyes on President Pierre Nkurunziza as Burundians head to the polls

President Pierre Nkurunziza is expected to win Tuesday's controversial poll

President Pierre Nkurunziza is expected to win Tuesday’s controversial poll

Amidst political unrest, opposition boycott and international isolation, the Burundian people will today head to the polls to choose their next president in the long awaited controversial presidential election.

Despite appeals from the opposition and civil society, regional leaders and the international community, the Burundian government, President Pierre Nkurunziza and the governing CNDD-FDD are organizing the presidential election in bid to have the incumbent extend his stay in office for the third term.

The ruling party’s decision to nominate the president for the third term ignited the current crisis in April and the central African nation has been tilting toward a full-fledged civil war since.

In the wake of Nkurunziza’s nomination, hundreds of protestors poured onto the streets of Bujumbura demonstrating against the president’s “illegal and unconstitutional” third term candidacy.

IF CIVILIANS DON'T WANT TO VOTE WE WILL: the police and members of the military lining up to vote in the communal and parliamentary elections in June

IF CIVILIANS DON’T WANT TO VOTE WE WILL: the police and members of the military lining up to vote in the communal and parliamentary elections in June

Protestors, opposition and civil society argue the president’s run violates the constitution and the 2000 Arusha Peace Agreement but Nkurunziza and his camp say they are not violating the country’s constitution in anyway.

The Burundian constitution allows the head of state two five year-terms through popular mandate (s).

The president says the fact that he was appointed by parliament for his first term in 2005, and elected by the people in 2010, he should be allowed another term in office for the people to vote for/against him for the second time.

The constitutional court has validated Nkurunziza’s candidacy but critics maintain he should drop his “illegal” bid.

The electoral calendar has been one of the sticking points in the conflict, as opposition and civil society, and regional and international leaders have called for the postponement of all election until calm is restored but the government has already organized communal and parliamentary elections, and has ignored calls to move Tuesday’s presidential poll.

Tuesday’s election was originally scheduled for June 26, and the government bowed to opposition pressure to push the poll to July 15.

The recent East African Community leaders summit in Dar es Salam urged the government to at least move the election to July 30 but the government decided to extend it for just six days.

All opposition candidates have boycotted the election except Agathon Rwasa, of the independent coalition Hope for Burundians. Rwasa pulled out last month’s elections but he is participating in today’s presidential election.

“The government has opted to isolate itself and go ahead with pseudo-elections,” a leading opposition leader Leonce Ngendakumana told AFP news agency.

Nkurunziza and his government expect the president to emerge victorious but experts have warned despite elections, the country could be on the brink of a civil war. And the renegade generals who mounted a foiled coup in may have threatened armed rebellion to force Nkurunziza out of power.

More than 3 million Burundians have registered to vote but given the insecurity hundreds of citizens are expected to flee the vote.

Nearly 10, 000 fled the June elections. More than 150, 000 have fled the conflict since April, and nearly 100 have died.