Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza can run for a third term, according to the country’s constitutional court.
Under the constitution, presidents can only be elected to two terms in office but it was argued that his first term does not count as he was appointed by parliament.
His third-term bid has led to more than a week of deadly protests.
The court’s decision comes after its vice-president reportedly fled the country citing “death threats”.
Sylvere Nimpagaritse said most of the court’s judges thought the third-term bid was unconstitutional, but they were under pressure to change their minds, reports AFP.
On Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Mr Nkurunziza to abandon his re-election bid.
“We are deeply concerned about President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision, which flies directly in the face of the constitution of this country,” Mr Kerry told reporters during a visit to Kenya.
The announcement on 25 April that Mr Nkurunziza would run for a third term in June’s elections sparked a wave of protests, as well as diplomatic criticism.
The Red Cross says that 12 people have died during the demonstrations and clashes between police and protesters have also left dozens injured.
People are also fleeing the country saying they “have experienced intimidation and threats of violence”, according to the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR.
It says that more than 20,000 people have left for neighbouring countries.
The African Union had expressed concern about the threat to stability caused by the third-term dispute.
But at the end of April the AU’s Peace and Security Council called on Burundians to respect the constitutional court’s decision whichever way it went
Mr Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader, has been in power since 2005, when he was appointed by parliament following a peace deal that ended a 12-year civil war.
He then won the 2010 presidential election after the main opposition parties boycotted the vote over concerns that it would be rigged. BBC