“Do not modify electoral code without us!”

Political party leaders met on January 4 to analyze the bill on the amendment to the Electoral Code. Other politicians regretted not having been associated while the matter is very important.

The meeting was characterized by notable absences of participants from UPRONA and FRODEBU parties as well as those from Amizero y’Abarundi Coalition. The party of Rwagasore, an ally of the ruling party CNDD-FDD didn’t get the invitation ‘that would have been ‘lost on the way’. “We think that our invitation was there but that it did not reach us,” said Abel Gashatsi, the president of this party.

19 political parties present in Gitega to study the bill amending the Electoral Code

The leader of Sahwanya FRODEBU party speaks about an invitation to the meeting announced on Thursday then postponed to Friday without notifying the party.

The second major political formation to sit in the National Assembly said it was not invited. Agathon Rwasa, the leader of Amizero y’Abarundi coalition, said he was shocked that such an important political formation would be ignored.

A total of 19 political parties out of 33 recognized by law met in Gitega. The ruling CNDD-FDD party and 18 others. Let’s say, parties that do not weigh heavily in the Burundian political arena. Parties that are said “to be accompanying the government action, except perhaps RANAC party affiliated to CNARED, the opposition coalition in exile.

There were several empty chairs of parties that would have liked to be there: 14 registered parties. A leader of a political party spoke of a “draft meeting “, poorly organized with invitations sent on WhatsApp.

Others speak about invitations given without a precise program of the day and without a working document. “A real administration malfunctioning”.

It is difficult under these conditions to speak of a consensual meeting for the study of such an important document that will govern the next elections. Former President of the Republic, Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, said the electoral code is a tool to regulate the elections as fairly and equitably as possible. ” This requires the combination of all the players to avoid future disputes.”

How to analyze a 76-page document in a one-day session if it were not previously sent to the key personalities of the electoral process? An in-depth study of the document was needed.
The purpose of the Gitega session was to discuss observations of different participants. After this work, the commission would transmit the preliminary draft to the Council of Ministers which would submit it to the National Assembly after studying it.

Part of the political class headed by Sahwanya FRODEBU party suspects that the Council of Ministers had already looked into the document before the meeting was held in Gitega. “The Gitega meeting would have been nothing but a mock consultation “.

The draft of the contested electoral code

Sylvestre Ntibantunganya” It requires the combination of all the actors to avoid future disputes.”

The 19 political parties gathered at Rehoboth Hotel did not all speak the same language. Challenges arose especially when it was about a guarantee of the declaration of a candidacy for the position of the President of the Republic which was increased from BIF 15 million to 50 million. A deposit that will only be refunded on condition that the candidate has obtained at least 5% of the votes in the first round, as if it is a way of cooling down those who would wish to withdraw their candidacies and those who feel they have no chance to reach 5% of the votes.

While the ruling party is excited to keep away the so-called publicity candidacies, other parties, including those who support CNDD-FDD, don’t share the feeling.

Jacques Bigirimana, FNL leader, believes that only the party in power can have such a sum. Kefa Nibizi from Sahwanya FRODEBU Nyakuri talks about a sum in sharp contrast with the living standards of the Burundian people. Abel Gashatsi of UPRONA party and Jean de Dieu Mutabazi of RADEBU party also speak of a sum that is not consistent with the income of the population.

Agathon Rwasa, leader of Amizero y’Abarundi coalition goes further and deplores the fact that a deposit of BIF 500,000 is requested for a candidate of a political party and an independent for the parliamentary elections. “It is incomprehensible that the guarantee of thousands of people assembled in a party is the same as that of a single individual”.

In addition, a single independent candidate will have to get 40% of the total votes of the constituency in which s/he is a candidate. “How is it that the eligibility of an independent is assessed on the basis of a constituency, whereas it is at the national level for a party?” wonders Agathon Rwasa.
The 2020 elections are on the horizon and Bujumbura is active. After the revision of the Constitution, a Kayanza road map was adopted. There is now, this electoral code that has been analyzed in a framework that is far from inclusive consensus.

This happens in a context of deadlocked dialogue, sloppy, which failed to resolve the crisis that Burundi has been going through since 2015. The refugees and particularly the political class of the opposition in exile had placed the hope of returning to the country in these external talks to participate in the next elections.

This opposition feels more and more excluded from the political scene of the country, the ingredients that announce a cocktail that would be difficult to swallow for the Burundian people.

Written by Agnès Ndirubusa and translated by

Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana