Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza has postponed parliamentary elections by 10 days to June 5, presidential official Willy Nyamitwe told AFP Wednesday, following weeks of violent protests and a failed coup.
Legislative elections had been due on May 26, but were pushed back following “a proposal from the electoral commission, to respond to a request from opposition parties, and finally to answer calls of the region and the international community,” Nyamitwe said.
No decision has been made as to whether a presidential poll set for June 26 would also be delayed. “Wait and see,” Nyamitwe said.
The European Union joined the African Union on Tuesday calling for a delay to the elections, while South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma said they should be “postponed indefinitely” after a meeting of Africa’s Great Lakes bloc of nations.
At least 20 people died in weeks of street battles with security forces before demonstrations ended last week when generals launched a failed coup attempt, but protests resumed again this week.
Protesters clashed Wednesday with security forces, who fired warning shots and tear gas to break up the crowds, but who then swiftly regrouped elsewhere.
Opposition and rights groups say that Nkurunziza’s bid for a third five-year term in power is against the constitution and the terms of the peace deal that brought an end to the country’s 13-year civil war in 2006.
But Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian who believes he has divine backing to lead the country, argues his first term in power did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people.
He has been accused by rights groups of launching a campaign of repression against opponents and trying to silence independent media since coup leaders admitted defeat on Friday after fierce fighting with loyalist troops.
But the presidency dismissed such claims Tuesday, saying it would never carry out “revenge” raids and promising fair trials for those arrested.
Almost a week on since the coup attempt led by a top general — which saw soldiers battling each other on the streets — troops have largely replaced the police to stem the protests.
More than 100,000 people have fled to neighbouring nations to escape political violence, according to the United Nations.