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Burundi Opposition to Boycott 28 June Election

Presidential candidate Agathon Rwasa sits underneath the portrait of Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza during an interview with journalists in the south western Burundian town of Rumonge, 12 May 2010

The leader of Burundi’s main opposition National Liberation Forces (FNL) party told VOA he will boycott the 28 June presidential election accusing the government of planning to rig the vote.

Agathon Rwasa said his party, as well as four other opposition parties, will not participate in an election in which the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) is pre-determined to win.

“We’ve been obliged to take the decision of pulling out of the competition because we have just seen a simulation [24 May] of a poll, but we never got to the poll [a legitimate result]. Because the results were ever since prepared (rigged) and we could just testify that people who expected their full vote have not got their satisfaction. Because we are discovering, here and there, where ballot boxes full of votes of the population, which have not been counted, so we don’t understand what kind of results they have,” he said.

Four other presidential contestants have joined forces with the FNL in withdrawing from the upcoming vote saying the election will not be transparent.

But, supporters of the ruling CNDD-FDD dismissed the charges as without merit.

Last week, Burundians voted after logistical problems forced several postponements of the local elections. The electoral commission declared the ruling CNDD-FDD winner of the vote, but the opposition rejected the poll saying it was fraught with irregularities.

However, the European Union declared the vote as having met international standards.

But, opposition leader Rwasa said the electoral body has refused to address their concerns ahead of the upcoming presidential vote.

“We have been asking that this election in June [should be postponed] so that we can really see a good result. [But], we are not seeing some moves forward. We just decided to pull out because we don’t see any interest to waste our time, money and energy in a competition which is not a fair one,” Rwasa said.

Burundi is scheduled to hold a series of elections starting with a presidential vote on 28 June, parliamentary poll on 23 July and a vote for senators on 28 July, with local elections in September.

Rwasa denied that the opposition boycott harms Burundi’s democracy.

“I don’t think that our decision to pull out is harming democracy because that democracy was not there. We were looking to build up this democracy through the vote or through the election and they have hindered this process,” Rwasa said.

He also said his party will rescind its boycotting decision and participate in the presidential vote if the electoral body resolves their concerns.