Burundi’s bishops say election was marred by irregularities
Bishops in Burundi criticised the nation’s presidential election substandard, saying it was marred by widespread irregularities and general lack of freedom to choose.
“We deplore many irregularities with regard to the freedom and transparency in the electoral process as well as fairness in the treatment of candidates and voters,” said Bishop Joachim Ntahondereye, president of the Burundian bishops’ conference.
He particularly highlighted that pressure was exerted on electoral agents to sign in advance results of ballot boxes, stuffing of the boxes and voting by the deceased people and refugees. Some administrators reportedly intimidated voters whom they accompanied at voting booths, and some people voted more than once. Other concerns include exclusion of observers from vote-counting centres, intrusion into counting centres by unauthorised people, and failure to guarantee secrecy of the ballot.
“Faced with all these irregularities and many others, we wonder if they do not prejudice the result,” Bishop Ntahondereye said in a statement released earlier this week.
On 25th May, Evariste Ndayishimiye, the ruling party’s candidate, was declared the winner of the elections with 69 per cent of the vote. The main opposition leader, Agathon Rwasa, rejected the result. He has challenged the outcome in the country’s constitutional court, which has until 5th June to make a decision.
If Ndayishimiye’s election is upheld, he will succeed President Pierre Nkurunziza, who has been in power since 2005.
Nkurunziza’s relationship with the powerful Catholic Church took a turn for the worst when he decided to run for president for a third term. The bishops rejected the move as unconstitutional and warned it would destabilise the country. Within weeks, widespread demonstrations turned violent in the capital, Bujumbura, and the government cracked down. Then, government officials accused the Church of playing a purely political role and sponsoring terrorism.
Before the election, the bishops urged people to remain calm and shun violence. They urged people disgruntled by the vote to seek redress in the courts.
Photo: Voters wait in line at a polling station in Ngozi, Burundi, during the presidential elections amid the Covid-19 pandemic. (CNS photo/Clovis Guy Siboniyo, Reuters)