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Burundi - 2015 Elections

Burundi authorities violently cracked down on anti-government protesters who were rallying against President Pierre Nkurunziza's announcement that he would seek a third term. [Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni was first elected president in May 1996, and was reelected Museveni to a fourth five-year term in 2011, while in Rwanda Paul Kagame was first elected to a 7-year term on August 25, 2003] The president's critics said a third term would violate the constitution. His supporters said he was eligible to run because parliament, not voters, had elected him to his first term in 2005. His plan for another five-year term plunged Burundi into its worst crisis since a 2006 peace deal ended more than a decade of civil war.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Nairobi on 04 May 2015, stated that by running for a third term, Burundi's president was flying in the face of the country's constitution. He added, "[w]e are deeply concerned about President Nkurunziza's decision," and said that the protestors "should be listened to."

On May 5, 2015, the Constitutional Court of Burundi decided that the country's president, Pierre Nkurunziza, could run for a third term; six of the seven judges signed the decision. The court contained a number of Nkurunziza supporters and it was always expected that the constitutional court would vote in favor of him.

The European Union said in late May 2015 it was suspending its election observer mission in Burundi. An EU statement said the election process had been "marred by restrictions on independent media, excessive use of force against demonstrators, a climate of intimidation for opposition parties and civil society, and a lack of confidence in the election authorities."

The political opposition broke off peace talks after Union for Peace and Development (UPD) opposition party leader Zedi Feruzi and his bodyguard were killed in a shooting in Bujumbura. Opposition and civil society groups have on [East Africa Community leaders to expedite action to restore peace in Burundi before the country is plunged into another round of ethnic violence or possible genocide.

The government reiterated its intent to hold municipal and legislative polls on 05 June 2015, and the presidential election on 26 June 2015. But on 30 May 2015 Burundi's electoral body announced it would delay scheduled local and parliamentary elections after more than a month of sometimes violent protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term. The presidential poll was still set for June 26, though regional leaders urged a delay to the presidential vote until at least mid July.

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza issued a decree 09 June 2015 postponing the presidential vote to July 15, about two weeks later than initially planned. Parliamentary elections had also been pushed back about a month and were scheduled to be held June 29.

On 09 June 2015 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressed alarm at the increasingly violent and threatening actions by a pro-government militia in Burundi, saying “they could tip an already extremely tense situation over the edge.” He urged the authorities to take immediate and concrete measures to rein them in.

“Every day, we receive 40 to 50 calls from frightened people all across the country pleading for protection or reporting abuses,” the UN Human Rights Chief said. “We have also received deeply worrying accounts from Burundian refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries about serious human rights violations reportedly committed by the militia attached to the pro-government movement known as the Imbonerakure. The alleged violations, reported to have taken place in Bujumbura, as well as in various provinces, include summary executions, abductions, torture, beatings, death threats and other forms of intimidation.”

Burundi's second vice president said he fled the country fearing for his life in June 2015 after opposing the president's controversial effort to extend his time in power that sparked off violent protests in the capital in recent weeks. Gervais Rufyikiri, who went to Belgium, said in an interview on Radio France International that he had not officially resigned. He was the most senior government official to publicly oppose Nkurunziza's efforts to stay in power.

Voters in Burundi cast ballots in parliament and communal elections 29 June 2015 following a night of gunfire in the capital and weeks of violent political protests. The opposition boycotted the elections. A number of high-level Burundian officials defected or fled in defiance of the president’s plans to run for another term. The most recent was the parliament head who said he fled to Belgium fearing for his life. About 100,000 Burundians also fled to neighboring countries fearing violence.

The presidential election was held on 21 July 2015. Turnout was believed to have been low, altghouh the head of the electoral commission was reported as saying that between 72 to 80% of eligible voters had particiaped. The election were widely criticized as not free and not fair, with opposition boycotting the vote. After running unopposed, incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza was declared the winner of the presidential polls, garnering according to the official results 69.41% of the votes. According to Burundi's Electoral Commission, approximately 74 percent of Burundi's 3.8 million registered voters cast their vote in the election.

Opposition groups rejected the polls after boycotting the vote, saying the prevailing conditions were not conducive for free, fair, transparent and inclusive elections. Some have demanded a fresh poll conducted only after peace is restored and their concerns resolved through dialogue mediated by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. He was appointed by the East African Community to help Burundian groups resolve the country’s crisis. On July 26, 2015 the chief executive officer of the Forum for Strengthening the Civil Society (FORSC) in Burundi said President Pierre Nkurunziza should not be part of any unity government.

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Page last modified: 05-08-2015 19:57:58 ZULU