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African former hot spot elects legislators

July 23, 2010 - BURUNDI

Burundian voters choose legislators for the country's 100-seat National Assembly on Jul 23 and for the 54-seat Senate on Jul 29. Opposition parties will be hard pressed to upset the significant lead of the ruling CNDD-FDD (the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy) in both houses. Violence prevention programs are in place to try to prevent the country's return to civil war. The election period has been described as explosive. The CNDD-FDD's nearest rival in both houses is FRODEBU (Burundi Democratic Front).

Burundian voters choose legislators for the country's 100-seat National Assembly on Jul 23 and for the 54-seat Senate on Jul 29. Opposition parties will be hard pressed to upset the significant lead of the ruling CNDD-FDD (the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy) in both houses. Violence prevention programs are in place to try to prevent the country's return to civil war. The election period has been described as explosive. The CNDD-FDD's nearest rival in both houses is FRODEBU (Burundi Democratic Front). Human Rights Watch notes that fierce competition between the ruling party and at least four or five strong opposition parties has resulted in high levels of tension between party militants. According to HRW, many parties have focused their recruitment efforts on ex-combatant youth, who can often be persuaded to carry out acts of violence. The country is enjoying relative peace after more than a decade of civil war since rebel movements laid down their arms and joined 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 the HRW statement. As in neighboring Rwanda, Hutu and Tutsi tribal rivalries exacerbate tensions. IFES (International Foundation for Electoral Systems) is working with the Burundian National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) and Burundian civil society groups to help minimize conflict through conflict prevention programming for the 2010 election cycle. The centerpiece, according to IFES, is the first-ever nationwide election violence prevention system named Amatora mu Mahoro (Elections in Peace), which results from the collaboration of over a dozen Burundian and international organizations. The program includes community theater productions touring the country to promote the importance of peaceful elections. Thirty-four members of the Senate are elected by indirect vote for 5-year terms, with remaining seats assigned to ethnic groups and former chiefs of state. In the National Assembly 60 per cent of the 100 seats for 5-year terms are held for Hutus and 40 per cent for Tutsis, with at least 30 per cent for women. A National Independent Electoral Commission appoints the balance to ensure ethnic representation. A presidential election is set for June, and the electoral cycle finishes with local elections in September that put 23 out of the 44 officially recognized political parties into competition. (Written May 2010)

Burundi leader to run for presidency again (Reuters/WP 24 Apr 2010)

Burundi: Stop Pre-Election Violence (Human Rights Watch/AllAfrica 14 Apr 2010)

Preventing Election Violence in Burundi (IFES 26 Apr 2010)

Date written/update: 2010-07-23