Burundi votes ‘yes’ on extending presidential term limits

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Burundi has voted in favour of constitutional changes that would allow President Pierre Nkurunziza to extend his presidency by another 14 years after the next election in 2020.

In a controversial referendum on Thursday, voters in the East African nation backed the changes with a 73 percent majority of “Yes” votes. Chief of Burundi’s electoral commission, Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye, confirmed the result on Tuesday – a day after the country’s leading opposition coalition said it would reject the result of the referendum.

Burundi votes for constitutional changes

The referendum result means Burundi’s government is free to implement constitutional changes that will extend the length of presidential terms from five years to seven years. The proposed changes also shift a number of powers away from the government to he president and remove one of the country’s two vice president positions.

The proposed changes don’t alter the presidential term limits preventing a single leader from serving more than two terms in power. However, making changes to the constitution means Pierre Nkurunziza – who is already serving his third term as president – will be able to run in Burundi’s next two presidential elections.

With more than five million people registered to vote in Thursday’s referendum, the poll generated a 96 percent turnout with 73 percent voting in favour of the proposed constitutional changes.

Opposition rejects result, cites intimidation

On Monday, the leader of Burundi’s leading opposition coalition said his party rejects the referendum result, accusing the government of using intimidation tactics to force people to vote in favour of the changes.

In the months running up to the vote, a series of reports emerged on security forces and youth groups forcing people to register for voting. Opposition members were arrested and one government supporter called for opponents to be drowned.

The government denies reports of intimidation, calling them propaganda, and insists it has been committed to holding a free and fair vote.

Featured image: By Copyright World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org)/Eric Miller, mailto:emiller@iafrica.com emiller@iafrica.com) – Pierre Nkurunziza – World Economic Forum on Africa 2008, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5685472

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.