Balloting starts in Burundi general elections

Thursday, May 21st, 2020 00:00 |
Staff member of the Burundian National Independent Electoral Commission prepare election materials in Gitega Province, central Burundi, on May 20, 2020. (Xinhua/Evrard Ngendakumana)


Burundi voters went to the polls on Wednesday to elect a new president, members of National Assembly and district councillors.

Polling stations opened from 6 a.m. and are scheduled to close at 4 p.m. for the country's about 5.1 million registered voters to cast their ballots. There are 3,807 polling centers with 14,665 polling stations nationwide, according to the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI).

Some polling stations didn't open on time as shipping of needed equipment was delayed. CENI Spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba told media that the closing of polling stations may be extended to 5 p.m. if they were unable to open on time due to technical reasons.

Long queues were seen at polling stations as the poll opened.

Josephine Niragira, a voter queueing up at a polling station in the commercial capital, Bujumbura, told Xinhua that she expects the new president to boost relations with other countries and focus on improving security.

All the presidential candidates are expected to cast ballots in their native villages. Secretary General of the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) Evariste Ndayishimiye cast his ballot in Geheta commune, in Gitega Province, central Burundi.

His main rival, Agathon Rwasa of the opposition National Council for Liberty, went to the north and cast his ballot in Kiremba commune, in Ngozi province.

Provisional results are expected to be released on May 26.

The central African country experienced violence related to the last general elections in 2015, and its citizens told Xinhua earlier that they expected peaceful elections, urging those who lose to accept the results and the winners to rule for everyone in the country.

"We will have newly-elected institutions and we expect that they won't work for their parties," Chartier Niyungeko, a Burundian expert in peaceful conflict resolutions, told Xinhua in an interview, adding that the elections should not create tension or lead people to violence and killings as in 2015.

He said elections are the opportunity given to people to show differences of their opinions about political parties and independents, and that the candidates must understand that the competition is a way of promoting political tolerance.

Burundi plunged into crisis in April 2015 when the current president, Pierre Nkurunziza from CNDD-FDD, decided to run his controversial third term bid, which he won in July 2015. His candidature, which was opposed by the opposition and civil society groups, resulted in a wave of protests, violence and even a failed coup in May 2015.

Nkurunziza is not seeking reelection this time. (Xinhua)

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