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Opposition parties now boycott all polls/CORRECTION*

Palipehutu FNL Leader Mr Agathon Rwasa returning home to Burundi. Crowds of Burundians welcome him back. Bujumbura, Burundi.
(Jacoline Prinsloo/IRIN)

Having pulled out of presidential elections scheduled for 28 June - leaving President Pierre Nkurunziza as the only candidate - an alliance of opposition parties in Burundi have announced they are also boycotting parliamentary elections to be held on 23 July.

"If the government maintains the status quo and organizes the presidential poll, we will not participate in that masquerade since the results are already known," Leonard Nyangoma, the spokesman for the Democratic Alliance for Change (ADC) - comprising 12 opposition parties - said at a news conference on 23 June in the capital, Bujumbura.

The alliance claimed Nkurunziza's solo candidature in the presidential poll would give rise to an "illegal and illegitimate" president, adding "we will never accept a president elected from unconstitutional elections".

But the electoral commission (CENI) insists that the two purported legal foundations of this claim, Article 102 of the constitution and Article 25 of the electoral code, do not prohibit an election being held with a single candidate.

The opposition parties made the decision to pull out of the presidential poll and, subsequently, the parliamentary elections following communal elections held on 24 May, which they claimed were rigged by the ruling party, the Conseil national pour la défence de la démocratie-Forces de défence de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD).

"We call on our communal councillors elected in the last electoral masquerade to boycott the meetings," Nyangoma said.

In the light of the boycott of the presidential poll, CENI has changed voting procedures so they resemble a referendum, with white and black envelopes used by those for and against Nkurunziza's election.

Renata Weber, who heads the European Union's election observer mission in Burundi, described this as a "total novelty".

"Insofar as you have the possibility to vote against the president that means that the campaign against the election of the president is allowed."

Despite refusing to campaign for a "no" vote, the opposition alliance says it will not just sit still.

Alexis Sinduhije, radio journalist and leader of the Movement for Security and Democracy (MSD) political party

Alexis Sinduhije, radio journalist and leader of the Movement for Security and Democracy (MSD) political party ...
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Opposition parties now boycott all polls/CORRECTION*
Alexis Sinduhije, radio journalist and leader of the Movement for Security and Democracy (MSD) political party ...

Photo: IRIN
Alexis Sinduhije, leader of the Movement for Security and Democracy

“If blood is the price to pay to defend our democracy, our liberty and our dignity, we will pay this price,” Alexis Sinduhije, chairman of the Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD), said on 23 June.

Asked by IRIN if this meant he was prepared “to fight, to take up arms,” he replied: “It cannot be ruled out. If it is the only way, we will take it.”

“We will never accept that a group of people take millions of Burundians hostage," he said.

Open letter

In an open letter to Nkurunziza on 22 June, detailing the irregularities of the communal elections, the alliance called for a revised electoral calendar saying: "We accept that the institutions remain in place for all the needed time for the new election timetable to be agreed upon."

Weber, while acknowledging that irregularities took place in the communal polls, however, said: "It is very difficult to say these types of irregularities affected the final outcome. That is why our conclusion was that, largely, the elections were in line with international standards and with good practice."

She said the irregularities noted have also been recorded in other countries. "They take place when either the legal framework is not good enough, the logistics may not be good enough or the education of the persons in polls [is not good enough]".

Transparency was "not that good" at the level of the electoral commission, Weber said. "Even at this moment, the minutes [tally] of the votes are not published."

According to Weber, the publication of the minutes could have convinced people that the electoral body was working according to the country's legislation, international standards and good practice.

A street scene in Bujumbura, the Burundian capital

Scène de rue à Bujumbura, la capitale burundaise : les luttes de pouvoir ont provoqué des accès de violence et des périodes de guerre civile au Burundi depuis l’indépendance du pays en 1962
Jane Some/IRIN
A street scene in Bujumbura, the Burundian capital
Friday, November 20, 2009
Analyse - Les prochaines élections, un test pour une paix fragile
A street scene in Bujumbura, the Burundian capital

Photo: Jane Some/IRIN
A street scene in Bujumbura: Burundi's political and security climate has deteriorated since communal elections in May

Grenade blasts

Meanwhile, since the communal elections, Burundi's political and security climate has deteriorated. A series of grenade blasts have been reported in various parts of the country, the latest on the night of 24 June. Two days earlier, blasts killed four people in the capital and the surrounding Bujumbura Rural Province.

On 19 June, a series of grenade attacks targeting bars in the northern province of Kayanza resulted in the injuring of at least 21 people.

Despite the incidents, electoral commission chairman Pierre Claver Ndayicariye has reassured potential voters that everything will be done to guarantee security during the presidential poll on 28 June.

"Measures adapted to the situation will be in place," he said.


* This version replaces remarks by Alexis Sinduhije disputed by the MSD with comments transcribed from an audio recording.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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