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Burundians Vote Monday for President Amid Opposition Boycott

  • Peter Clottey

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon with Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza in the capital, Bujumbura

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon with Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza in the capital, Bujumbura

A leading member of Burundi’s ruling CNDD-FDD party says the government has tightened security to ensure the presidential election scheduled to begin Monday morning is credible and devoid of violence.

Onisime Nduwimana said the election will continue as originally planned despite the refusal of opposition parties to participate in the vote.

“The ruling party is ready to go to the election in Burundi. And, I think that all Burundians are ready to go to elect the president of Burundi,” he said.

Analysts say incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza will win by a landslide vote after the main challenger, Agathon Rwasa, leader of the opposition National Liberation Forces (FNL), pulled out of the presidential election.

Other opposition parties joined the FNL in boycotting the vote claiming the Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) rigged last month’s local election for the CNDD-FDD, a charge the electoral body denies.

Ruling CNDD-FDD official Nduwimana said the opposition boycotted the poll because they were afraid of losing to incumbent President Nkurunziza.

“The election will be good and, you know, the other candidates for the election they (were) sure that they don’t have the people who are ready to elect them. And, they left because they had to pay something like $15000 and that amount is a good amount to pay it for nothing,” Nduwimana said.

He maintains that the election will be free and fair despite opposition rigging claims.

Nduwimana also said that the presence of both local and international poll observers to monitor Monday’s election shows the ruling party wants a fair vote.

Observers say the boycott will seriously undermine the credibility of the election and weaken Burundi’s fledgling democracy.

But, electoral chairman Ndayicariye said, in spite of the boycotts, the presidential election will proceed as originally planned.

“In 2005, we had (only) one candidate and the election was organized and in Burundi (it) is not the first time we have had a single candidate. They (the opposition) were invited to participate, but they said it’s not good to continue to proceed participating in this election. It’s their own political will,” Ndayicariye said.

Opposition groups criticized President Nkurunziza’s ruling CNDD-FDD party of intimidation and harassment.

This follows the arrest of six leading opposition party members by Burundi police after they were accused of plotting to disrupt Monday’s presidential poll – a charge the leaders denied as the ruling party’s attempt to destroy their party.