Burundi backs election delay

Pierre Nkurunziza

Pierre Nkurunziza

Burundi’s government said Friday it backed regional calls to postpone controversial polls, but only by a few days, saying it had asked the election commission to implement the delay.

The crisis in the central African nation revolves around President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third-term bid, which his opponents say is unconstitutional and violates a peace deal that brought an end to a dozen years of civil war in 2006.

Over 70 people have been killed in more than two months of protests, with over 158,000 refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries, according to the latest UN figures.

Presidential polls are due on July 15 followed by senatorial elections on July 24, but the five-nation East African Community (EAC) on Monday called for elections to be delayed by two weeks, to July 30, in order to allow time for mediation.

Government spokesman Philippe Nzobanariba said in a statement that the election commission had been asked to implement the EAC recommendation for a delay to the vote, but that it should be held no later than July 26.

Under Burundi’s constitution, polls must be held at least one month before the presidential mandate expires on August 26 with Nzobanariba warning of “institutional vacuum and chaos” should it happen after that.

The election commission has proposed July 21 or 22 as suitable dates, sources said.

Parliamentary polls on June 29 were boycotted by the opposition and internationally condemned.

The UN electoral observer mission said the polls took place “in a climate of widespread fear and intimidation”. The results are yet to be released.

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