Opposition rejects Burundi polls, US disappointed by government obstinacy

Electoral Commission officials  counting votes in Bujumbura

Electoral Commission officials counting votes in Bujumbura

A prominent Burundi opposition leader, Agathon Rwasa, says his country’s communal and legislative polls held Monday did not respect the standards of a democratic election, and that results cannot be endorsed by Burundians themselves and the international community.

In an interview with this website, Rwasa said the elections were conducted in the most irregular conditions and there is no way they could be recognized.

He says the process was just a mockery of Burundians and the international community whose main recommendation is to set up a suitable environment to allow all candidates run their campaigns, and the government to disarm militant youths allied with the ruling party.

“The communal and legislative polls were organized in unsuitable conditions that cannot allow a free, fair, and independent process that could respond to the expectations of Burundians, as well as regional and international community.” Mr. Rwasa of the Forces for National Liberation tells Afrika Reporter.

He says people including his party members, were forced to go to the polls following threats and intimidation from the youth wing of the ruling party and Intelligence services.

Rwasa together with other opposition members announced last week they had pulled out of the process. However, the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) says they did not receive any formal communication thus the opposition decision has no effect on the outcomes of the elections.

Agathon Rwasa recommends the government sits down with all stakeholders so as to avert international isolation of Burundi.

Rwasa’s sentiments echo those of other opposition leaders.

“These elections were held in unacceptable conditions, were not inclusive, fair and democratic,” the deputy president of opposition party Frodebu, Frederic Bamvuginyumvirahe told Reuters.

The international community also still maintains all elections in Burundi be postponed in order to set up a conducive environment for free and fair elections. The African Union has firmly announced it will not endorse what will come out of the elections.

The United States also made the same call as it supports the decision of the African Union.

“The United States is deeply disappointed that the government of Burundi moved forward with parliamentary elections today despite woefully inadequate conditions for them to be credible, disregarding the strong urging of the African Union, the UN Secretary General and many other voices calling for a delay, reads a press statement released by the US embassy in Bujumbura Monday evening.

The US Embassy called on “President Nkurunziza to place the welfare of his country and people ahead of his wish to serve a third term by heeding the calls for dialogue and demonstrating respect for the Arusha Agreement, including its provisions on term limits”.

The government and the ruling party CNDD-FDD last week boycotted the ialogue mediated by the UN Special Representative Abdoulaye Bathily, the East African Community and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, the US Embassy urged the government to return to the table and to participate seriously in the dialogue, calling “all stakeholders to reach consensus on new electoral dates and find a political solution for this crisis”.

The statement adds “the United States supports the AU’s decision not to send electoral observers in recognition that free, fair and credible elections are impossible given the current security situation and the closure of political and media space.”

The United States calls President Pierre Nkurunziza to cooperate fully with the AU and regional organisations to resolve the current crisis and enable credible elections to go forward at a later date.

Counting of Monday’s votes still continues, and the ruling CNDD-FDD party is currently leading, the Coalition “Hope of Burundians” is in second place.