PUBLISHED ON March 2nd, 2015

Burundi voters rebuff attempt at third term

Amid political tensions in Burundi over a bid to give President Pierre Nkurunzinza a controversial third term in office, a new poll shows a solid majority of voters favours presidential term limits.

The president’s supporters are trying to bypass a clause in the Constitution that limits him to two consecutive five-year terms in order to extend his rule after 10 years in power.

According to the Afrobarometer survey, 62 per cent of voters nationwide say the president should be limited to only two terms while only 37 per cent want term limits done away with.

Last year, a Bill to introduce a third term failed to sail through parliament after CNDD-FDD’s junior coalition partner boycotted the vote. The ruling party, which holds 81 out of 106 seats in parliament, fell one vote short of the 85 required to pass the amendment.

A similar poll by the same agency in 2012 showed the president fast losing public support, with 51 per cent of respondents preferring term limits against 46 per cent.

“The larger new majority may indicate that, as the country approaches elections, and in response to public debate on the issue, the number of people opposed to a third presidential term is increasing,” says the Afrobarometer report.

The president may not have declared his intentions but he has left no doubt that he intends to push his candidacy in the elections slated for mid this year.

A brief from IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review says President Nkurunzinza is likely to vie for the top seat despite strong local and international opposition.

Presidential spokesperson Willy Nyamitwe gave the clearest sign yet that the president will be on the ballot in a recent interview.

The US special envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Russell Feingold, said prolonging the president’s stay in office could threaten the country’s stability. In January, a coalition of 300 civil society groups said a third term bid will push the country into violence.

“Leading opposition parties are likely to respond to Nkurunziza’s reported plans by boycotting the elections, with their supporters likely to take to the streets, raising the risk of collateral damage to commercial assets and death and injury,” IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review said.

Third-term opponents argue that the Constitution allows the leader only two terms but the president’s men say he was only elected once through universal suffrage, in 2010 when the post-conflict period ended. They argue that he has therefore only served one term and that the indirect election in 2005 by the country’s parliament in accordance with the Arusha Accords — a peace deal that ended the 13-year civil war — should not be counted.

Source: The East African

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