The European Union and Burundi’s influential Roman Catholic Church on Thursday pulled out from observing elections in the African country, saying that next month’s vote cannot be fair because of daily unrest and a crackdown on media. Reuters have more:
More than a month of demonstrations against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term in office has sparked the biggest political crisis since an ethnically-charged civil war ended in Burundi in 2005. The EU said it had suspended its observer mission as the electoral process was “seriously marred by restrictions on independent media, excessive use of force against demonstrators (and) a climate of intimidation for opposition parties and civil society”.
The Catholic Church, representing more than two-thirds of the population in the central African nation, criticized the closure of private radio stations and said it would “no longer be able to support the electoral process”.
The government said both the EU and the church had erred in withdrawing ahead of the elections. “They should stay and wait for the process to begin and report anything that comes from them,” said Gervais Abayeho, the president’s spokesman. He said parliamentary and local council elections would go ahead on June 5. A presidential vote is scheduled for June 26.
A coup attempt by elements of the army failed in mid-May but sometimes violent protests have continued amid opposition accusations that Nkurunziza is violating the constitution by seeking a third term, something his supporters deny.