Burundi: Opposition candidates leave presidential race


Candidates say current situation in country does not guarantee free and fair elections

BUJUMBURA, Burundi – Three candidates have withdrawn from Burundi’s upcoming presidential election, Pierre Claver Ndayicariye, president of the electoral commission, said Saturday.

Domitien Ndayizeye and Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, both former presidents, and Jean Minani, leader of the Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU) and a former parliament speaker, sent a letter to the electoral commission announcing their withdrawal.

According to the Ndayicariye, the candidates claim “the current political situation in which the elections will be organized does not guarantee peaceful, free, fair, transparent and democratic elections.”

“As we are still in (UN-sponsored) negotiations, we cannot honor the July 21 elections,” Ntibantunganya told Anadolu Agency.

Burundi’s presidency recently announced that presidential elections would be postponed to July 21, after having been initially slated for July 15.

Incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza will face Jean de Dieu Mutabazi, chairman of the Coalition of a Participative Opposition (Copa) and Gerard Nduwayo, chairman of Union for National Progress (UPRONA) – who are allied to the ruling party.

The opposition boycotted the June 29 parliamentary and municipal elections to protest Nkurunziza’s planned third presidential bid.

Burundi has been rocked by protests since the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy named President Pierre Nkurunziza – in power since 2005 – its candidate for the July 15 presidential polls.

The situation took a turn for the worse earlier last May when a group of army generals staged a failed coup attempt against Nkurunziza while he was attending a regional summit in Tanzania.

The opposition says Nkurunziza does not have the right to seek a third term, citing Burundi’s constitution, which limits the number of terms a president can serve to two.

However, Burundi’s Constitutional Court recently ruled that Nkurunziza’s third-term bid would not violate the constitution.

The court ruled that, since he was elected in 2005 by parliament and not by the people, Nkurunziza’s first stint in office should not be counted as a first presidential term per se.

Over 100 people have reportedly been killed since the crisis began, while tens of thousands of others have fled the violence to neighboring countries.