News24

Burundi in 'no contest' vote

2010-07-22 15:53

Bujumbura - Burundi's ruling party is assured of victory in Friday's parliamentary polls, the latest instalment in an electoral marathon marred by fraud allegations, violence and an opposition boycott.

The central African state had hoped to prove its democratic credentials and consolidate a fledgling peace deal but earlier polls in May and June have left the political landscape in ruins and heightened fears of renewed civil strife.

Voters will elect 100 legislators for the lower house of parliament in the last major voting in the country's marathon election process.

President Pierre Nkurunziza's ruling CNDD-FDD party is guaranteed a comfortable win as it will only be challenged by allied parties and a small opposition movement from the Tutsi minority.

The country's main opposition parties have boycotted the electoral process since the results of the May 23 local council vote, which they charged was rigged by Nkurunziza's government.

The young leader subsequently won more than 90% of the vote in the June presidential election.

Rising  tension


Former rebel leader Agathon Rwasa, who had been regarded as his main rival, went into hiding and later explained in an audio message that he feared for his life after claiming the polls were fixed.

"The electoral process in Burundi has been completely derailed and this country is ending up under the control of a party with authoritarian tendencies," said a Western diplomat in the country.

Campaigns for the legislative ballot which ended on Tuesday only saw the ruling party and the Tutsi-dominated UPRONA party woo the electorate.

A string of grenade attacks and the arrest of more than 100 opposition supporters and officials - some of whom are believed to have been tortured - in recent weeks have also increased tension around Burundi's elections.

Denial

Ruling party spokesperson Onesdine Nduwimana rejected the claims.

"All this is false. The CNDD is a democratic party which fought for the establishment of democracy in Burundi," he said.

He added that those arrested were threatening public order and that there was no political motive.

Leonard Nyangoma, the spokesperson of a 12-member opposition umbrella group boycotting the elections, said: "Burundi's electoral process since the local polls is a total failure."

"This according to us also means that the peace process in Burundi is failing."

Burundi embarked on a painstaking peace process a decade ago to end an ethnically-driven civil war that erupted in 1993 and claimed some 300 000 lives.