burundi elections
A man cycles past a barricade set up by protesters in the Nyakabiga neighbourhood of BujumburaCarl de Souza/AFP

The European Union is ready to apply sanctions on Burundian officials for allowing the presidential election considered unreliable and unconstitutional by millions of Burundians and the international community.

The announcement was made as the country is counting votes after 3.8 million Burundians went to the polls on 21 July amid violence and growing tensions.

"The European Union is preparing to adopt, if necessary, targeted restrictive measures against those whose actions led to acts of violence, repression and serious human rights abuses or hinder the search for a political solution," the EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was quoted by Reuters as saying.

She explained that at least six Burundian officials are to be targeted with asset freezes and travel restrictions.

The US, which released a statement slamming the election as "not credible" and warned that they "will further discredit the government", has also imposed visa bans on some members of the government.

One EU official said there are no discussion on further measures that could harm the population.

Violence erupted in Burundi after current President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term in April. Protesters accused the leader of violating the constitution and the Arusha Peace Agreement, which says the president can only stay in power for two terms.

Nkurunziza's supporters argued the president's first term should not be counted as he was chosen by the parliament and not by the people in an election as is specified in the agreement.

The unrest caused at least 100 deaths and prompted more than 144,000 people to flee the country. The Burundian police as well as the Imbonerakure – the youth wing of Nkurunziza's party National Council for the Defense of Democracy – have been accused of committing abuses, such as killings and torture, against protesters.

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