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Burundi opposition takes presidential election dispute to court

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Burundi’s main opposition party has filed a case in the country’s constitutional court challenging last week’s presidential election result, claiming there is evidence of fraud.

Burundi’s election commission said on Monday the governing party candidate, retired General Evariste Ndayishimiye, had won the presidential election with 69 percent of the vote. It added that candidate Agathon Rwasa got 24 percent of the vote and the election was peaceful.

But Rwasa, the opposition leader of the National Freedom Council (CNL), while speaking to reporters on Thursday after filing the complaint, said “appalling errors were made across the country,” adding that “no district or province was spared”.

“We have provided evidence that there has been a massive fraud,” Rwasa said. “The announced results are false.”

The court will have until June 5 to decide the case.

Rwasa said if the court did not rule in the CNL’s favour, the party would take the case to the East African Court of Justice in Arusha, Tanzania.

If the legal challenge is not successful, Ndayishimiye will be inaugurated in August for a seven-year term. 

Reports of political violence

The May 20 vote to replace President Pierre Nkurunziza had been preceded by reports political violence including the arrest, torture and murder of opposition activists, according to a local rights group and Amnesty International.

There was also controversy over holding the election during the coronavirus pandemic, which critics argued posed a public health risk.

There were also no foreign observers present, as the government said they would have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the country.

The country’s last election in 2015 was marked by violence, with hundreds of Burundians killed and hundreds of thousands exiled during the unrest, in which the opposition accused Nkurunziza of violating a peace deal by running for a third term.

Rwasa said the evidence in his filing showed that people had voted using dead voters’ identities, that polling stations had used an electoral register that has never been published by the electoral body, and that ballot boxes had been stuffed.

While the East African Community, a regional body, gave the election a clean bill of health on Tuesday, the Conference of Bishops of Burundi criticised the conduct during the polling, saying observers from some parties had been chased from polling stations.

A joint statement issued by western diplomats on Wednesday made no reference to any irregularities and urged the opposition to pursue legal paths to contest the election outcome.

The electoral body’s officials were not immediately reachable to comment on Rwasa’s complaints.

Five other candidates also stood in the polls, in which 5.11 million registered voters were eligible to participate.

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