More than 5 million Burundians are set to vote in the presidential election today. President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose unconstitutional decision in 2015 to run for a third term triggered mass protests and political violence, will be stepping down after this election. In January, the ruling CNDD-FDD designated the party’s secretary-general, Evariste Ndayishimiye, as its presidential candidate, but this did little to convince the opposition that the election will be free and fair.
Virtually every candidate for office has decried irregularities regarding the distribution of voter cards or the appointment of polling station managers, the majority of whom are members of the CNDD-FDD.
The electoral commission has refused to publish an updated voter list.
A delegation from the East African Community, of which Burundi is a member, were supposed to serve as election observers, but were ordered to be quarantined for two weeks upon their arrival just twelve days ahead of the vote. The Burundian government asserted this was in response to COVID-19, but the country’s otherwise blasé attitude towards the pandemic, including the recent expulsion of WHO officials managing a national response, makes this declaration appear to be an effort to restrict international scrutiny.
Voter turnout is likely to be low in some communities.
The country’s independent electoral commission has refused to publish an updated voter list, which signaled to human rights campaigners, journalists, and the opposition that the final vote tally is likely to be tampered with. And the CNDD-FDD’s youth wing, the Imbonerakure, were found by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to be responsible for a number of violent attacks against opposition groups.
Voter turnout is likely to be low in some communities due to fears of COVID-19, which in turn raises the likelihood that the losing party will reject the outcome of the election.
Preliminary results are expected on May 26, and a final count is set to be released on June 4.