Burundi opposition leader says presidential elections must be held by August

Burundi opposition leader says presidential elections must be held by August

[JURIST] Burundi opposition leader Agathon Rwasa [Aljazeera backgrounder] on Saturday said that a presidential election must be held by August so that a newly elected government is in place by the time current president Pierre Nkurunziza’s [BBC profile] term ends August 26. Currently there is an election planned for June 26, but the likelihood of it taking place has greatly diminished amid months of protesting against Nkurunziza. Even smaller local elections have been postponed due to such protests in which over 30 people have been killed. In an interview with Reuters, Rwasa said [Reuters report], “There is no room for a transitional government. We will have to comply with the constitution. We knew ahead of these elections that we should hold it so that we can have a newly elected president, and MPs and so on, by August this year.” Those opposing Nkurunziza’s bid for a third presidential term claim that both the constitution and the Arusha peace deal [agreement, PDF] that ended the 2005 civil war state that no one should be president for more than 10 years. Those backing Nkurunziza claim that this does not apply to him since he was not voted in for his first term but selected by lawmakers.

Burundi has faced unrest since Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term in April. The unrest intensified in May after the Constitutional Court ruled that he could seek a third term [JURIST report] in office without violating the country’s constitution, which states that presidents shall be universally elected into office for a term of five years and can renew the term once. Also in May Burundi authorities arrested [JURIST report] political opposition leader Audifax Ndabitoreye shortly after he met with East African Community ministers in the capital city of Bujumbura. In April the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concern [JURIST report] over actions by Burundian authorities ahead of its upcoming presidential elections.The OHCHR said [JURIST report] that the upcoming elections in Burundi place the nation at a critical moment in history, urging the nation to choose democracy in the elections.