Burundi opposition threaten to boycott polls

President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza. Image source defenceweb

President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza. Image source defenceweb

Burundi’s opposition parties have threatened to boycott elections later this month if the government fails to create the conditions for a fair vote, a spokesman for a coalition of 17 parties said Friday.

The troubled central African nation has been in crisis since late April over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial bid to stand for a third consecutive five-year term, a move branded by opponents as unconstitutional and a violation of a 2006 peace deal that ended 13 years of civil war.

Parliamentary elections are now slated for June 29 and a presidential poll on July 15, after being delayed following weeks of street demonstrations, a violent police crackdown and a failed coup attempt by a section of the army.

“If the elections are held in conditions that would impose the power of Nkurunziza, we cannot participate because they will be elections held illegally with no legitimacy,” said Jeremie Minani, spokesman for the coalition of 17 parties and organisations.

Members of the coalition include senior opposition leader Charles Nditije, former head of the main Tutsi-party Uprona, and ex-rebel turned influential politician Agathon Rwasa.

Burundi’s opposition has said that fair polls are not possible because independent media has been shut down, many opponents have fled the country, and the government has refused to discuss the main flashpoint issue of Nkurunziza’s proposed third term.

The elections are also going ahead despite a string of resignations by election commission officials. On Wednesday Nkurunziza issued another decree allowing the remaining three out of five members of the commission, which had been paralysed by two resignations, to take majority decisions.

The opposition have accused the president of trying to force a vote regardless of the crisis.

“We ask the international community to reject and isolate any institution that emerges from these elections,” Minani told AFP, warning it would otherwise set the country on the “road to chaos.”

The group has written a letter addressed to Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, the current head of the five-nation East African Community (EAC), warning that under current conditions an election would not be credible.

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