Burundi votes on longer presidential terms

Pierre Nkurunziza has been president since 2005

Pierre Nkurunziza has been president since 2005

Burundi went to the polls yesterday to vote in a constitutional referendum, which could extend President Pierre Nkurunziza’s rule to 2034.
He is a former rebel leader who came to power at the end of Burundi’s ethnically-charged civil war in 2005.
His run for a controversial third term in 2015 set off a wave of violence and an attempted coup, which was foiled by government forces.
The political crisis led to hundreds of deaths, and more than 400,000 people fled the country, according to the United Nations (UN).
Critics at the time called his move unconstitutional. But supporters of Mr Nkurunziza, a born-again Christian and father of five, who has his own football team, said he was justified in running for a third term.
They argued that he had technically only done one term as he was first elected into power in 2005 by Parliament – not voters.
It is a view that was later upheld by Burundi’s Constitutional Court, although there were reports that the judges had been intimidated.
The President portrays himself as a man of the people, and this has brought him widespread support in the rural areas, says Robert Misigaro from the BBC Great Lakes service.
This is a demographic that his opponents have failed to harness, our correspondent adds.
Mr Nkurunziza was re-elected in July 2015 in a poll boycotted by the opposition.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is investigating the abuses and violence, following a 2017 UN report detailing killings, torture and rape, allegedly committed largely by pro-government forces in that period.
Burundians will vote Yes or No on whether to extend presidential terms from five years to a seven-year mandate.
There is currently a two-term limit in place for presidents. The changes could also allow Mr Nkurunziza to contest the 2020 elections, and potentially enjoy another two terms, as under a new constitution, he would start from scratch.
Other changes include a new post for a Prime Minister, the scrapping of the second Vice-President post, and a clause that could see ethnic quotas – of 60 per cent for Hutus and 40 per cent for Tutsis – in the Senate and National Assembly, evaluated and potentially ended in five-year term.
Ethnic quotas enabled the Tutsi minority, which used to dominate the country, to enjoy a veto since laws are adopted through a two-thirds majority in the Senate. -BBC

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