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Burundi Opposition Rejects New Election Timetable

  • James Butty

An opposition demonstrator holds a sign in French reading "No to a third term" next to a barricade fire set by protesters in the Ngagara neighborhood of Bujumbura, Burundi, June 3, 2015.

An opposition demonstrator holds a sign in French reading "No to a third term" next to a barricade fire set by protesters in the Ngagara neighborhood of Bujumbura, Burundi, June 3, 2015.

A spokesman for Burundi’s independent opposition coalition said the proposal by the electoral commission to change the dates for national elections has no standing because Burundi has no legally constituted electoral commission.

Francois Bizimana, spokesman for Mizero Y’Barundi, or “Hope for All Burundians,” said the commission lacks a quorum because three of its five members have fled the country.

Burundi’s constitution stipulates that the commission must make decisions by consensus which requires that four out of its five members be present.

The National Independent Election Commission Monday proposed June 26 as the date for legislative polls, followed by the presidential election July 15, and a senatorial vote July 24. A senior adviser to President Pierre Nkurunziza told VOA the president must agree to the proposed dates by decree.

Bizimana, however, said the electoral commission’s proposal is not valid.

“Article 19 of our constitution says that the electoral commission is composed by five members. Now, we have only three members out of five and for taking decisions. We need four members out of five. The proposal made by our electoral commission is not valid because we don’t have the quorum for taking decisions,” he said.

Burundi’s powerful Roman Catholic Church late last month asked its clergy on electoral commissions to step down from those commissions. The vice president of the election commission, Spes-Caritas Ndironkeye, has fled the country.

“Two members of our electoral commission are not now members of the electoral commission because we have heard they are no longer in the country. They have gone out of our country and I don’t know where they are right now,” Bizimana said.

He said that even if the electoral commission were to successfully postpone the elections, it would not satisfy protesters who say Nkurunziza’s third term bid is unconstitutional. Bizimana said elections can only be held with two conditions.

“First of all, we must have an electoral commission in accordance with our constitution, particularly Article 19, which provides that members of the electoral commission are five members. Now, we have only three members out of five,” he said.

In addition, Bizimana said, the law enacting the electoral commission also mandates that the commission can take decisions by consensus. If it cannot reach a consensus, it can only make its decisions when four members out of five are present.

“The second condition is that President Nkurunziza must withdraw his decision to run for [a] third [term] to be president of Burundi. If protesters don’t have a response to their demands, they will again be in the streets,” Bizimana said.

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