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Burundi President Welcomes Election Postponement

President Pierre Nkurunziza makes a brief statement at the presidential palace in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 17, 2015.

Burundi’s President, Pierre Nkurunziza, has welcomed a decision by the electoral commission to postpone both presidential and legislative elections following unrest in the country, according to presidential spokesman Willy Nyamitwe.

In an interview with VOA Thursday, Nyamitwe said the constitution stipulates July 26 is the latest date when the presidential vote can be held.

The presidential vote was previously planned to be held on July 26, while the legislative election was scheduled to be held on Friday.

East African leaders recently urged Burundi to postpone the elections for at least 45 days. The leaders also called for dialogue among all stakeholders to resolve the ongoing crisis. The unrest in Burundi has forced over 100,000 to flee into neighboring countries, including Rwanda and Tanzania.

Presidential spokesman, Nyamitwe says dialogue among the government, the opposition and civil society groups will resume next week. The talks are aimed at restoring peace and resolving the crisis in the East African country.

“The government accepted to postpone the elections, and we hope that all the persons from the opposition, who did not go to campaign, will organize themselves in order to [contest] in the race,” said Nyamitwe.

Opposition groups threatened to boycott the elections if President Nkurunziza insisted on seeking re-election. They however agreed to return to the talks with the government following recommendations by the East Africa regional leaders.

Nyamitwe says dialogue between the government and the opposition could help ease tension.

“Let’s wait for the talks next week and we will know what is going to be the way forward. But what they have said so far is they agree with what the EAC [East Africa Community] summit has said,” said Nyamitwe.

He says the administration in Bujumbura is dedicated to talks with opposition groups to end the crisis.

“The government of Burundi has always been committed to talks with the opposition. Even last week we were talking with the opposition and the civil society, but they decided to stop the talks and [walk out]. But now they have announced that they are coming back to join the talks again. So the government of Pierre Nkurunziza has been talking to the opposition and has never stopped talking to the opposition.”

Nyamitwe says the administration expects opposition groups to begin their campaigns in the run up to the elections.

“We expect that the riots in some streets of the capital are going to stop in order for everybody to move around freely. This is what Burundians expect during this period of postponement,” said Nyamitwe.

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