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Last Updated: Monday, 4 July, 2005, 22:39 GMT 23:39 UK
Burundi voting for new assembly
South African UN peacekeepers patrol the streets around the central market in Bujumbura
UN peacekeepers are deployed alongside Burundian security forces
Voters in Burundi have gone to the polls to elect members of parliament.

The election marks a key step in efforts to end the civil war started in 1993 between the Tutsi-led army and rebel groups from the Hutu majority.

The UN put the turnout at 65%, lower than expected because of concerns over safety. One Burundian soldier was hurt in an explosion at a polling station.

The new MPs are due to choose a new president in August, ushering in the first elected government since 1993.

'Voting peace'

Carolyn McAskie, head of the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB), said turnout had fallen from the 80% seen in June's municipal elections but was still "totally acceptable".

Reports of fraud were "not sufficient... to affect the overall result", she told a press conference.

There had also been no complaints of intimidation, she said, which was encouraging.

Astere Kana, a spokesman for Burundi's independent electoral commission, said the voting had "ended peacefully" and provisional results were expected late on Tuesday.

Woman voting in June's local elections
Last month's local elections were marred by shelling
Many voters had feared attacks by the FNL, Burundi's last active Hutu rebel group.

During last month's local elections, it was blamed for a series of shootings and grenade attacks.

Polling stations were guarded on Monday by Burundian security forces and UN troops.

A Burundian soldier was slightly injured when a hand grenade exploded in the capital, Bujumbura, as ballots were being counted, Burundi's deputy police chief Col Helmenegilde Mimenya told the AFP news agency.

Power shared

The BBC's Rob Walker in Bujumbura says the elections mark a fundamental shift of power in Burundi.

For much of the time since independence, control of the state has been in the hands of a narrow Tutsi elite.

Now, after a peace process lasting five years, Burundians are finally voting to a elect a new assembly in which power will be shared.

Forty per cent of the seats are reserved for the Tutsi minority and 60% for Hutus.

A former Hutu rebel group, the FDD, is favourite to win most votes.

Ethnic divisions remain, and some from the Tutsi minority fear that Hutu-based parties will dominate the new Burundi.



SEE ALSO:
Burundi backs new constitution
01 Mar 05 |  Africa
Burundi prepares to move on
27 Feb 05 |  Africa
Country profile: Burundi
26 Feb 04 |  Country profiles


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