The presidential vote -- a direct election by all voters, not parliament, for the first time -- is a potential turning point for vulnerable Burundi. It falls one month into the country's staggered election, which begins with district polls in May and continues through September. President Pierre Nkurunziza plans to stand again. The presence many former combatants fuels the violence between activists affiliated with the ruling CNDD-FDD or opposition parties, creating an explosive mix.
There will be a second presidential round on 26 July 2010, if necessary. The election will be the first democratic poll since 2005, when former rebel Nkurunziza of the CNDD-FDD (the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy, a former Hutu rebel group) was elected president after protracted United Nations-backed negotiations. Nkurunziza's rivals include former rebel leader Agathon Rwasa of the FNL (Forces for National Liberation) and Domitien Ndayizeye for FRODEBU (Burundi Democratic Front). Ndayizeye was president of a 2003-2005 transitional government. Reuters notes that Movement for Solidarity and Democracy candidate, former journalist Alexis Sinduhije, is seen as a credible threat for Nkurunziza. The news service also notes that Burundi will have two women presidential candidates for the first time. The country is enjoying relative peace after more than a decade of civil war since FNL, the last Hutu guerrilla group, agreed to lay down weapons and join the government. The president and the CNDD-FDD are in a position to save the vulnerable democracy if they fight a fair contest and stamp hard on election-related violence decried in April in a Human Rights Watch statement. As in neighboring Rwanda, Hutu and Tutsi tribal rivalries exacerbate tensions. District elections are set for May 21, a parliamentary poll on Jul 23 and a senate election on 28 Jul. The process concludes with local elections in September. (Written May 2010)
Date written/update: 2010-06-28