tstormn.png
Sunday May 24th, 2020 9:34PM

Burundi holds crucial presidential election amid pandemic

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A crucial election was underway Wednesday in the East African nation of Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza is stepping aside after a divisive 15-year rule but will remain “paramount leader” in the country that continues to reject outside scrutiny.

The vote is one of the most important transfers of power in Burundi since independence in 1962. Some fear it could lead to violence as the previous election did in 2015.

Few face masks were seen, even on the ruling party's candidate, as voters crammed close to each other in line. Some paused to wash their hands. Burundi has been criticized for not appearing to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously. Nkurunziza himself attended crowded political rallies. The country has 42 confirmed virus cases.

“We are not afraid because the organizers did not require us to distance 1 meter,” voter Ndayishimiye Innocent said. “They saw that God is with us.”

Regional observers were not present after being told that arriving foreigners would face a 14-day quarantine. Citizens and journalists said access to social media was not possible Wednesday without a virtual private network.

"The government is cutting social media so that we don’t tell the world what is happening,” voter Jean Pierre Bazikamwe said.

Nkurunziza praised the election because “no foreigner came to trouble them as it happened in the past.”

Ahead of the vote, government agents were accused of harassing the main opposition party, the CNL, whose leader Agathon Rwasa, the deputy parliament speaker, was believed to be in a close race with Nkurunziza’s chosen successor in the ruling CNDD-FDD, Evariste Ndayishimiye. Police accused Rwasa of making “incendiary and defamatory” remarks and inciting revolt.

Ndayishimiye on Wednesday called on all candidates to accept the results. “You cannot refuse the decision of Burundians who voted because you also are included in them,” he said.

Rwasa condemned the social media cuts, saying it could be a way of committing election fraud. He called for respecting the people's will. “If we are satisfied we will say it, but if we are not we will also say it,” he said.

One electoral commission official, Zirabura Ferdinand, dismissed concerns: “As you can see, everything is in order and we expect everything to move along freely and fairly.”

But some in Burundi worry a rigged election could spark the kind of demonstrations that marked the vote in 2015, when Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term that some called unconstitutional.

The president on Wednesday said people would not oppose the results of this election “because in the past they did it due to ignorance” and asserted that “they won’t commit the same mistake.”

The deadly turmoil that followed the 2015 vote badly damaged global relations, and Burundi became the first country to leave the International Criminal Court after it started investigating abuses. The U.N. human rights office reported more than 300 extrajudicial killings and was kicked out of the country. Burundi’s government has denied it targets its people.

Last week, the World Health Organization’s top official in Burundi was kicked out amid concerns about the pandemic response.

If none of the seven candidates receives more than 50% of the vote, a runoff election will occur within weeks. More than 5 million people are registered to vote in the country of nearly 12 million.

Analysts have said Ndayishimiye, a retired general, would be a front for the 56-year-old Nkurunziza and other powerful ruling party members.

Many Burundians were surprised that Nkurunziza would step aside after a referendum in 2018 extended the length of a presidential term to seven years.

Critics and rights groups have warned that Nkurunziza is unpredictable and Wednesday's election could be a mere formality.

“We are not going to have a credible election," said Stephanie Wolters, an analyst with the South African Institute of International Affairs. "If Ndayishimiye is elected, he will have to invite political opposition, civil society back into the country and also participate in the national dialogue with the opposition.”

Some voters reflected the skepticism and uncertainty.

“I know my vote won’t be counted but I have to make a change. That is why I woke up at 4:00 a.m. to come to vote,” said one, Suzane Bucumi.

Ruling party supporters disagreed.

”During the civil war (from 1993 to 2005 that killed about 300,000 people) I lost my parents and we were not spending nights in our homes. I must vote for Evriste Ndayishimiye because it is the CNDD-FDD who ended the war," said voter Marie Nduwimana.

“We thank the CNDD-FDD because these recent 15 years we have security," said Melance Hakizimana, who added that “in a family there must be a heir to organize the affairs.”

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Elections, General Presidential Election News, AP World News
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
The Latest: Japanese high school baseball tourney canceled
Japan’s beloved high school baseball tournament has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic
6:38AM ( 4 minutes ago )
Virus looms over China's national legislative session
This year’s version of the National People’s Congress — China’s biggest political meeting — will be unlike any other
6:36AM ( 6 minutes ago )
Taiwan President Tsai calls for stability in China relations
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen is calling for stability in relations with China but says she will not accept Beijing's political terms that would “downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo."
6:35AM ( 7 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Burundi opens crucial presidential election amid pandemic
A crucial election has begun in the East African nation of Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza is stepping aside after a divisive 15-year rule but will remain “paramount leader” in the country that continues to reject outside scrutiny
4:57AM ( 1 hour ago )
Trump tells Senate GOP to 'be tough' on Democrats
President Donald Trump implored Senate Republicans to “be tough” on Democrats heading into the fall election
3:58PM ( 14 hours ago )
Long-suffering California GOP sees revival in rare House win
California Republicans see a turnaround coming after years of disappointments at the ballot box
2:18PM ( 16 hours ago )
AP Elections
Barr says he doesn't envision investigations of Biden, Obama
Attorney General William Barr says he does not expect investigations into the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation to lead to criminal probes into either President Donald Trump’s Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, or former President Barack Obama
5:47PM ( 1 day ago )
Sweeping federal lawsuit seeks election changes in Wisconsin
Advocates for people with disabilities and minority voters in Wisconsin have filed a sweeping federal lawsuit seeking changes to ensure the August primary and November presidential election can be held safely amid the coronavirus pandemic
3:33PM ( 1 day ago )
GOP chair: 'We will not be holding a virtual convention'
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tells reporters “we will not be holding a virtual convention.”
2:26PM ( 1 day ago )
General Presidential Election News
Asia Today: S. Korean students return to class; 32 new cases
South Korean students have begun returning to classes as the country counted 32 new coronavirus cases
5:13AM ( 1 hour ago )
Cyclone dumps rain on India, Bangladesh, 2M head to shelters
A strong cyclone is blowing heavy rains and strong winds into coastal India and Bangladesh after more than 2.6 million people moved to shelters in a frantic evacuation made more challenging by coronavirus
4:16AM ( 2 hours ago )
South Korean high school seniors return to school
South Korean students have began returning to schools as their country prepares for a new normal amid the coronavirus pandemic
4:12AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP World News
The Latest: Japanese high school baseball tourney canceled
Japan’s beloved high school baseball tournament has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic
6:38AM ( 4 minutes ago )
Virus looms over China's national legislative session
This year’s version of the National People’s Congress — China’s biggest political meeting — will be unlike any other
6:36AM ( 7 minutes ago )
Taiwan President Tsai calls for stability in China relations
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen is calling for stability in relations with China but says she will not accept Beijing's political terms that would “downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo."
6:35AM ( 7 minutes ago )
5 things to know today - that aren't about the virus
Here are a few things to know about the day’s nonvirus news from The Associated Press
6:02AM ( 41 minutes ago )
Quest for 'super-duper missile' pits US against key rivals
Little on the Pentagon’s drawing board illustrates more clearly the Trump administration’s worry about China and Russia than its work on hypersonic weapons
5:43AM ( 1 hour ago )