Burundi’s President – Heading for Victory and Isolation?

The result of Burundi’s controversial presidential election is due Friday. It will not be a surprise as opposition parties had pulled out, leaving the road clear for President Pierre Nkurunziza to be re-elected.

Vote counting is underway in Burundi, one day after presidential elections from which incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza is expected to emerge victorious, despite domestic and international protests over the validity of the poll. Opponents say Nkurunziza is not entitled to remain president for a third term, but his supporters claim that since he was chosen by lawmakers – and not elected – for his first term in 2005, he was entitled to run again.

This is now somewhat academic as the elections have been held and there was little opposition worth the name. Four main opposition parties pulled out and called for a general boycott by voters. However, the country’s Electoral Commission put turnout at about 70 percent in rural areas, while it was lower in the capital Bujumbura where opposition to the president has been strongest.

Electoral Commission Chairman Pierre Claver Ndayicariye said results would be announced on Friday afternoon. Perhaps in a bid to deflect criticism of what is a foregone conclusion, a presidential official said on Wednesday that Nkurunziza would not oppose forming a government of national unity. However, the spokesman said the president was not prepared to cut short his five-year term.

Government of national unity ‘unlikely’

In an interview with DW, Phil Clark of SOAS in London said a government of national unity “is unlikely to be an available option for the opposition parties.” The parties who boycotted the election had said they absolutely opposed President Nkurunzia’s third term and “they think a government of national unity would see him continue as president for the next five years,” Clark said.

Looking outside Burundi, Clark said in the last few days other East African Community (EAC) leaders had been “much more vocal” than previously. “They have made it very clear that they do not believe these elections should have gone ahead, they don’t think that the current environment is conducive to free and fair elections.”

As a result, when – as expected – Nkurunziza is declared the winner, he will find himself in a position of isolation. “He won’t have the support of the East African Community leaders, he won’t have the support of the African Union or the United Nations or major European donors,” Clark said.

The East African Community (EAC) groups Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Meanwhile, the presence of tens of thousands of Burundian refugees in Tanzania and Rwanda is putting those countries under some strain. “The concern is that refugees are continuing to pour across those borders every single day,” Clark said. “Rwanda and Tanzania, in conjunction with the EAC and various UN agencies, have set up a very coherent refugee protection environment.” However if the refugee situation continues and “becomes volatile over the next few weeks,” then the situation could become very difficult for the host countries.


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