Burundi’s ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party said it is happy with the turnout in Monday’s parliamentary elections despite an opposition boycott and international criticism the atmosphere was not conducive for a free, fair and transparent vote.
Party Chairman Pascal Nyabenda said Burundians defied opposition boycott calls because they prefer democracy to a coup d’état.
He dismissed global criticism saying the government organized the elections for Burundians and they responded.
“For the CNDD-FDD, we appreciated the election of today because there was a very good participation of the population and the security was everywhere in the country,” he said.
Nyabenda denied claims the poll was marred by poor turnout. He said it was expected that some opposition parties would not take part adding that Burundians turned out large numbers because they want democracy.
“What is surprising people is that Burundians want democracy even if their leaders say they should not vote. Still, people went to vote which means that there is no connection now between the leaders and some members of some political parties,” he said.
President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term in office triggered a failed coup last month and criticism from those who say he is violating the two-term limit in the constitution.
The Constitutional Court ruled he is eligible because he was first elected by parliament, not voters, in 2005.
The African Union did not send observers because it said conditions were not conducive for free, fair and transparent elections.
AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma expressed concern about what she called "the serious political and security situation" in Burundi.
But Nyabenda said there were other election monitors from the United Nations and Kenya.
“Someone who would like to say that this election was not transparent was not fair I think they will be wrong because, as all people have seen, even the UN has sent some observers. Some countries like Kenya sent some observers.”
Zuma said the AU, U.N. and regional bodies had called on Burundi to delay the vote until July 30, along with the presidential vote. She said Burundi is at a "crucial phase of its history," and that the political turmoil has "serious implications for peace and security" in the country and the region.
A U.S. State Department spokesman also expressed disappointment in the elections saying there were "woefully inadequate conditions for free and fair elections.”
Nyabenda said the presidential election scheduled for July 15 will go ahead as planned.
“The plan is still the same. Now we continue with other election as it has been planned by the electoral commission. We are in campaign for the presidential election which means we go on, we don’t stop,” Nyabenda said.