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Burundi

Ndayishimiye wins Burundi election, opposition alleges fraud

President-elect Evariste Ndayishimiye speaks to the media after casting his ballot in Giheta, central Burundi, on 20 May 2020.
President-elect Evariste Ndayishimiye speaks to the media after casting his ballot in Giheta, central Burundi, on 20 May 2020. © AFP

Burundi’s ruling party candidate Evariste Ndayishimiye has been declared the winner of last week’s presidential election, marking a new era in the country’s politics with the end of incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza’s rule. Opposition parties have complained of a vote marred by irregularities on election day and intimidation during the campaign period. 

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Ndayishimiye secured 68 per cent of the vote, according to Pierre Kazihise, president of Burundi’s electoral commission. The country’s main opposition leader, Agathon Rwasa, took just over 24 per cent of ballots, and turnout was 87 per cent. 

In the legislative polls, the ruling CNDD-FDD party took 72 seats in Burundi’s parliament, and Rwasa's opposition CNL party took 27 seats.

The CNDD-FDD said the election of Ndayishimiye would help “write a new and brilliant page” in the country’s development. In a post on social media, the CNDD-FDD congratulated the country’s electoral commission for its “remarkable work” in organising and running presidential, parliamentary and local elections. 

Foreign election observation missions were largely absent from the polls. Some African envoys monitored polling stations on 20 May, and Kenya’s ambassador to Burundi, Ken Vitisia, said voting was “very peaceful”

Election day itself was characterised by a clampdown on social media, with access to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp restricted across the country’s three major internet providers. 

Opposition allege irregularities 

Agathon Rwasa had already complained “the electoral fraud was planned”, in an interview with the Iwacu news website

"These are fabricated results, which are not reliable. The tally sheets that we could gather don't correspond to those that have been announced by the media,” according to Rwasa, discussing results that had already been announced ahead of time. 

He gave one example of an area in which thousands of additional names had allegedly been added to the electoral list, describing the voter roll as “a pure and simple fantasy”. The CNL candidate said voter ID cards had not been given to certain voters. 

"I ask the electoral commission, the Burundian people, the authorities and the international community to respect the verdict of the people," Rwasa added. 

Political repression 

According to a statement published on Sunday by the CNL the authorities wanted to stop CNL supporters from exercising their civic and political rights on polling day.

The CNL said at least 200 of its supporters were arrested on polling day and their polling agents were harassed. 

In addition, three CNL members were killed, more than a dozen forcibly disappeared, some 50 injured and 300 arrested during the campaign period, according to the opposition. 

The authorities blamed CNL supporters in the run-up to the election, saying they attacked members of the CNDD-FDD, according to a statement from the ministry for public security. The government said the opposition was responsible for killing one member of the CNDD-FDD and injuring 49 during the three weeks of campaigning. 

Human rights experts sounded the alarm about increasing political violence during the campaign period. The Burundi Human Rights Initiative told RFI that the majority of violence was perpetrated by the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party. 

First new president in 15 years 

Ndayishimiye will become the country’s first new president since 2005 when Nkurunziza was elected following the end of Burundi’s civil war. 

Nkurunziza’s controversial third term in 2015 faced protests and demonstrations, resulting in an attempted coup by a breakaway military faction. It led to a violent crackdown by the government, described by a UN investigation as committing “gross human rights violations”

Ndayishimiye previously studied law and joined the CNDD-FDD when it was a rebel group during the civil war. He rose through the ranks and eventually held several top positions in government, consolidating his position during the 2015 crisis. 

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