Some 5 million voters were called to the polls in Burundi on Wednesday to choose a new president, deputies and municipal councilors who will elect future senators.
The presidential election offers the possibility of turning the page on 15 years of disputed governance of Pierre Nkurunziza.
The two heavyweights of the presidential elections are General Évariste Ndayishimiye, 52, dolphin of the outgoing president, Pierre Nkurunziza, CNDD-FDD candidate in power; and the leader of the opposition, president of the National Council for Freedom (CNL), Agathon Rwasa, 56, a former rebel leader.
The opposition accuses
The CNL, party of Agathon Rwasa, denounced pressure on its assessors and fraud in certain provinces. The deputy and representative of the CNL in Rumonge, Obed Ntakiyiruta, denounced “a real electoral heist”. Since morning, at least 40% of CNL observers have been chased from polling stations, he said.
“In some places, we have seen ballot stuffing. Elsewhere people are not allowed to isolate themselves to vote and are pressured to vote for the ruling party,” said Ntakiyiruta, according to Agence France Presse.
Pierre Nkurikiye, spokesman for the Ministry of Security, admitted that a number of members of the CNL were arrested. They are accused of being responsible for a few minor incidents, including attempted fraud.
The Burundian authorities refused any observation mission and blocked access to social networks, according to several sources.
The Election Commission estimates that there was “a strong participation”, without providing figures for the moment. The results are expected early next week.
The new head of state will have many challenges to face. Among other things, he will have to reconcile the country, manage the Covid-19 epidemic, but also face an economic crisis. According to the World Bank, most of the Burundian population lives in poverty.
The future president will be invested in August. He will take the place of Pierre Nkurunziza who did not want to run again after 15 years in power.
His candidacy for a controversial third term in 2015 had plunged his country into a serious political crisis, which had left at least 1,200 dead and led to the exodus of 400,000 Burundians, according to AFP.
As if coronavirus didn’t exist
Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Burundian authorities have not ordered any measure of social distancing or the wearing of masks for voters. However, they were asked to wash their hands.
Burundi has not imposed confinement on its citizens, like many African countries. According to the authorities, the country is protected by “divine grace”. The country officially has 42 cases of new coronavirus, for a single death.
Doctors on the spot accuse the authorities of minimizing the gravity of the situation. The government even expelled the team from the World Health Organization (WHO) responsible for helping it manage the epidemic.