Opposition parties will boycott elections in Burundi in protest at the president’s bid for a third term and on concerns that voting will not be fair, a party official said, escalating the nation’s worst political crisis since a civil war ended in 2005.
Weeks of unrest followed President Pierre Nkurunziza announcement in April that he would seek another five years in office. He justified the move, which his opponents said was unconstitutional and foreign governments have criticised, on the basis of a favourable court ruling.
Announcing the boycott by the group of 17 parties of the July 15 presidential election as well as a parliamentary poll scheduled for Monday, Francois Nyamoya, secretary general of the MSD party, told Reuters the votes would “not be credible.”
The dispute has plunged the nation into crisis, raising concerns in a region with a history of ethnic conflict and leading some Western donors to scale back aid.
Protests erupted after Nkurunziza announced his re-election bid, leading to about six weeks of almost daily clashes between stone-throwing demonstrators and police, who were seen firing into the ranks of angry youths.
The streets of the capital, where most of the rallies were held, have calmed but political tensions remain. The election schedule has already been pushed back several weeks because of the unrest.
One of Burundi’s vice presidents, Gervais Rufyikiri, said this week he had fled the country after he was threatened for denouncing Nkurunziza’s bid, an allegation denied by the government.
Government officials have repeatedly said they would guarantee a fair vote. When opposition parties threatened a boycott in the past, it said the ruling party’s rivals were worried about losing at the ballot box and so wanted to stay away.
Opponents say the CENI election commission that will oversee voting is biased.
Two of the commission’s five members resigned after the crisis erupted, including its vice president who fled Burundi. They have since been replaced.