Politics

Constitutional referendum to take place on 17 May

Whereas the date for the upcoming constitutional referendum is definitively set, opposition coalition speaks of a process that comes to undermine the ongoing peace process.

Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza: “All eligible Burundians living in Burundi or abroad should participate in this constitutional referendum”

Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza: “All eligible Burundians living in Burundi or abroad should participate in this constitutional referendum”

In a decree issued on 18 March, Burundian President Pierre Nkuruniza announced the polling day for constitutional referendum fixed on 17 May. The Burundian President calls on all eligible Burundians to participate in this referendum. “All eligible Burundians living in Burundi or abroad should participate in this constitutional referendum,” reads the decree.

According to the same presidential decree, the draft constitution submitted to the referendum will be adopted if the absolute majority of the votes which is fifty percent plus one vote (50% + 1), approves it.

The campaign to teach the population to vote for or against the revision of the constitution will be launched after political parties, the coalitions of political parties as well as independent actors who meet the conditions set by the law will have registered in the Independent National Electoral Commission CENI. The registration process is fixed from March 23 to April 6, 2018.

The chairman of UPRONA party, Abel Gashatsi, indicates that his party will participate in the constitutional referendum. “UPRONA will not miss the opportunity to register to participate in the election campaign,” says Gashatsi, adding that the party members will decide whether or not they will vote for or against the amendment to the constitution after holding a meeting of governing bodies of the party.

Tatien Sibomana, Spokesman for the opposition coalition ‘Amizero y’Abarundi’, finds that the process of amending the constitution undermines the ongoing inter-Burundian dialogue process under the auspice of the East African Community. He accuses the government of forcing the amendment to the current constitution. This process comes to break the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement signed in 2000 to end a civil war that erupted in 1993, he adds.

Since 2015, the government has been using force to rule. “Forcing has become a mode of government,” says Sibomana adding that the coalition for which he speaks has not yet decided whether or not it will participate in the upcoming constitutional referendum. “We will consult our partners before we make any decision,” says Sibomana.

He also says that the president does not have the prerogative to fix the quorum for the adoption of the constitution by referendum adding that Article 300 of the current constitution stipulates that any law must be adopted by the national assembly and the Senate. “If the draft constitution is to be adopted in the referendum, it must be approved by 4/5 of Members of Parliament and 2/3 of Senators before the president promulgates it,” says Sibomana.