Burundi opposition in parliament despite 'not credible' polls

Bujumbura (Burundi) (AFP) - Burundi's main opposition leader Agathon Rwasa took his seat as parliament met for the first time Monday since legislative elections last month, saying he would "play the game" despite criticising the polls as not credible.

Rwasa, who has denounced the third consecutive win by President Pierre Nkurunziza, garnered almost 19 percent of the presidential vote last Tuesday despite saying he was unable to properly campaign.

But Rwasa said he was right to take up his seat as a member of parliament after the June legislative vote.

"Should we abandon to their fate all those people who voted for us?" Rwasa said.

Rwasa has said he would not oppose the formation of a unity government if its main aim is to prepare new elections. On Monday, 104 of a total 212 lawmakers turned up to parliament.

"As long as the negotiations have not been completed, play the game," Rwasa said. "I think everything will be determined by the outcome of the dialogue being conducted between the parties."

Nkurunziza's candidacy was condemned as unconstitutional by the opposition and provoked months of protests and an attempted coup in mid-May.

His victory -- who took more than 69 percent of the vote in the July 21 poll to give him an immediate first-round victory -- could trigger donor sanctions against the already impoverished nation.

There are also widespread fears the country, situated in the heart of central Africa's troubled Great Lakes region, could be plunged back into civil war.

US President Barack Obama on Saturday denounced the presidential election as "not credible", and urged the government and opposition "to come together in a dialogue that leads to a political solution to the crisis and avoids the loss of more innocent life".

Months of anti-Nkurunziza protests rocked the capital after he announced his intention to run again in late April. The demonstrations y were violently repressed, leaving at least 100 people dead and hundreds others wounded or in detention.

Many opponents have also fled, joining an exodus of more than 150,000 ordinary Burundians who fear their country may again be engulfed by violence.

In mid-May, rebel generals attempted to overthrow Nkurunziza in a coup, which failed. They have since launched a rebellion in the north of the country.

Clashes were reported in the southwestern region near the Nyanza Lac area over the weekend, police said.