As the week comes to a close, and President Pierre Nkurunziza’s ruling party revels in its landslide victory on Monday, mixed news out of Burundi on just how CNDD-FDD wound up with 70 percent of the votes.
As I reported earlier this week, a coalition of eight opposition parties released a statement on Monday, urging the electoral commission “to take a wise decision and annul the elections and organize other communal elections on 28 June, the same day as presidential elections.” They alleged widespread intimidation and fraud, as well as a number of irregularities surrounding the ballot boxes.
Speaking on behalf of the protesting political parties, Chevineau Mugwengezo, spokesman of the Union pour la paix et le developpement (UPD), told IRIN: “Some ballot boxes were taken home and only returned [to the polling stations] the next day.”
Electoral bodies, I’m sure, alleged that this was only for safe-keeping.
FNL spokesman Jean-Bosco Habyarimana, according to the same IRIN report, “said postponing the communal poll twice gave the ruling party time to corrupt and intimidate voters.”
“How can you explain that on a given hill, a party like the FNL’s score does not even get to the number of its committee members?” he questioned.
Meanwhile Onesime Nduwimana, the spokesman for the ruling party, told IRIN on 26 May that voting had been closely monitored by local and international media, observers and representatives of political parties.
“In minutes from polling stations, co-signed by representatives of political parties without any reservation, no single irregularity was reported,” Nduwimana said.
EU observers said they were satisfied that the election generally met international standards.
“In the 95.6 percent of polling stations monitored by the EU observers, they assessed that the voting system was very good or good. And in 42.9 percent of polling stations, the observers judged that the vote-counting was very good or good,” Renate Weber, head of the EU’s observers’ mission, told Reuters.
It wasn’t entirely clear how less-than-good vote-counting in 57.1 percent of polling stations constitutes a generally free and fair election, but T.I.A., I guess.
Burundi’s election body, meanwhile, told the opposition parties to back up their claims of fraud with hard evidence.
“You don’t ask for the cancellation of an election for the sake of it,” Prosper Ntahorwamiye, the electoral board spokesman, told AFP on Thursday.
“You have to give tangible and irrefutable evidence that there is fraud that puts the results to doubt.”
Observers from a local group, the Coalition of Civil Society for Monitoring the Elections (COSOME), seemed likewise satisfied with the outcome.
“Our observers reported cases of voting officials who entered with ballot boxes and we also saw the power cuts in certain voting stations, but there were political agents and observers with torches,” said the group’s president, Jean-Marie Kavumbagu.
COSOME said the election had generally gone well despite some hitches, including voting stations opening late, ballot paper shortages, party officials trying to influence queuing voters and inadequate voting booths.
“But I must say that on the whole, the election went well and these irregularities were not of a nature that could affect the result of the vote,” Kavumbagu said.
With four days to lodge a formal protest – with proof to back up their claims – the ball is now in the opposition’s court.