Burundi opposition rejects vote results


[Photo of opposition candidate Agathon Rwasa.] Bujumbura, Burundi – Amid allegations of bribery and vote tampering, tensions between opposition parties and the National Independent Electoral Commission are on the rise following the provisional results from the communal elections held on 24 May 2010.

Thirteen opposition parties made up what they called Democratic Alliance for Change in Burundi to protest the communal elections they charge were rigged. The chairpersons of the disgruntled parties in early June sent a declaration to the head of state, Mr. Pierre Nkurunziza, requesting the dismissal of the national, provincial and independent electoral commissions.

“The independent electoral commissions are no longer credible for us since it has failed to properly achieve its mission,” said the statement.

The sitting Electoral Commission was appointed by President Nkurunziza and approved by parliament. The Commission's five members are drawn from opposition parties and various religious traditions and serve three-year renewable terms.

Domestic and international observers praised the Commission’s work from the start. But the Commission has come under intense criticism since the elections of May 24.

The allegations came after the ruling CNDD-FDD overwhelmingly won the polls with more than 64% of the vote, a huge margin of victory over its closest opponent the National Front for Liberation (FNL), which received just over 14%.

The enormous victory came after the National Independent Electoral Commission postponed the communal election from 21st to 24th of May following logistical problems reported a few hours before the polls.

The Democratic Alliance alleges that the ruling CNDD- FDD party bribed citizens to vote for its candidates. In a press conference held on Thursday, Mr. Deo Hakizimana, an independent candidate, informed journalists of reports that the ruling party had distributed money while voters were queuing to vote.

“I do not have time to waste in the presidential elections where the process is rigged,” Agathon Rwasa, a Hutu and former rebel leader considered to be a leading contender for the presidency, explained to journalists.

Mr. Onésime Nduwimana, spokesperson of the ruling party, scolded the opposition. He said the Democratic Alliance ought to accept the defeat and begin planning for the presidential elections.

The Democratic Alliance’s move to negate the independent elections commission is viewed by analysts as a political game.

“The signatories of the document trying to delegitimize the communal elections provisional results is a strategy to force the government pay attention to their claims,” explained Mr. Simeon Barumwete, the political analyst and lecturer at the National University of Burundi.

Mr. Prosper Ntahorwamiye, the Electoral Commission’s communication officer, said the commissioners would not resign unless the institutions that nominated them agreed upon their dismissal in accordance with the law.

“The commission is not our private estate. We believe Burundi has other skilled persons capable of conducting elections,” Ntahorwamiye insisted. “If the elections stakeholders agreed upon our dismissal, we are ready to go,” the commissioner told Rema FM in an interview.

The opposition has become so incensed about the election results that all opposition candidates have decided to boycott the presidential elections set for 28 June as long as the Electoral Commission stands. The last holdout, the UPRONA Tutsi-based party, announced on Friday they would also withdraw their candidate.

UPRONA spokesperson, Mr. Bonaventure Niyoyankana said UPRONA joined the presidential election’s boycott because they do not want to undermine the influence of other political parties.

The only candidate now in the contest is the incumbent head of state Pierre Nkurunziza of the CNDD-FDD party.

Ambassador Pierre Claver Ndayicariye, chairperson of the National Independent Electoral commission, said the opposition’s allegations of election rigging are a blatant lie.

The presidential elections will take place regardless of the boycott, Ndayicariye told media outlets, even if just one candidate stays in the contest.

Independent observers, meanwhile, suggest that Ndayicariye is right to defend the election result. Domestic and international elections observers reported that the elections took place in a favorable atmosphere.

“Security was ensured in all polling stations,” said the European Union representative of the commission.

The EU also hailed the communal elections’ high levels of participation, which included the majority of women.