Burundi president’s third-term bid ‘non-negotiable’
Burundi’s government said Tuesday that President Pierre Nkurunziza would not end his bid for a third term in power despite weeks of opposition protests as the country’s electoral commission proposed a new date for the controversial election.
The dispute over the upcoming presidential vote has thrown the country into weeks of chaos. The protesters say President Nkurunziza is violating the constitution by running, while Nkurunziza, backed by Burundi’s constitutional court, insists his bid is legal.
At least 20 civilian demonstrators have been killed in clashes with police, who have used a combination of tear gas, water cannon and live ammunition.
Some protesters have vowed to stay on the streets until Nkurunziza retracts his bid.
But government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba said in a radio broadcast Monday there was no chance of the president standing aside.
“This decision is non-negotiable,” he said.
The presidential vote had originally been scheduled for June 26, but on Monday Burundi’s electoral commission the CENI proposed a delayed date of July 5.
The commission also proposed delaying parliamentary elections until June 26 and holding elections for the Senate on July 24. The parliamentary election had been scheduled to take place on June 5 but was postponed indefinitely on the eve of the vote.
The head of the electoral commission, Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye, said the proposal to hold the presidential election on July 16 was in line with recommendations made by East African leaders.
Opposition: Polls will be a ‘masquerade’
It is hoped that the delay will help defuse the political crisis and give the president and his opponents an opportunity for dialogue.
The CENI has vowed to create a more open process, including allowing media houses closed during the protests to reopen.
However, Burundi’s opposition rejected the proposed election dates, saying conditions for holding fair polls were not met.
Opposition leader Charles Nditije demanded the setting up of a new independent electoral commission, after two of the CENI’s five members resigned and left the country.
“If things remain as they are, we consider that it will be a masquerade, a parody of elections,” Nditije said.
He also called for the disarmament of the ruling party’s youth win – the Imbonerakure, regarded by the United Nations as a militia force – and for Nkurunziza to end his third-term bid for power.
“We cannot hold elections now,” Nditije told AFP late Monday. “The conditions are not there, so elections cannot be credible and give acceptable results.”
Burundi 'will knock on doors’ to fund polls
Financing the series of polls is another challenge facing the Burundian authorities after the European Union, Belgium and the Netherlands suspended some aid last month to press for delayed elections.
Burundi’s presidential spokesman on Monday expressed hope that the Western donors would reverse their decision in a bid to avert more chaos.
“We believe this was a very harsh decision,” Gervais Abayeho said of the aid suspension. “We hope it will be reviewed.”
Abayeho said the government had earmarked its own election funds and guaranteed voting would go ahead before August 26, the end of President Nkurunziza’s current term.
“If there are no elections here, the country will sink into chaos,” he said. “There will be lawlessness, there will be no elected institutions. What would happen here would be even worse than what they are imagining now.”
The government of Burundi, one of the world’s poorest nations, has earmarked 44 billion Burundi francs (€25 million) to fund the elections. “If that is not enough, Burundi will knock on other doors,” Abayeho said, without citing other donors.
He said the government had received donations after an appeal to citizens in Burundi and abroad, without giving figures.
“The elections will take place,” he said. “That is guaranteed, because Burundians are contributing now, Burundians from inside and outside the country.”
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS, AP)
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