Burundi is all set to hold presidential elections on Wednesday even amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, reported Washington Post. The country of 11 million people has recorded 42 confirmed coronavirus infections and one related death so far.
A total of seven candidates are contesting in the election that will replace President Pierre Nkurunziza, who is stepping down after 15 years in power.
Wednesday’s election will be the first competitive presidential election since a civil war erupted in 1993. It will usher in the first democratic transition in 58 years of independence for the impoverished east African nation, after widespread international criticism of its last election in 2015, when Nkurunziza ran for a third term.
Over five million people are expected to vote in Wednesday’s poll. The provincial results are likely to be out by May 26 and official results by June 4.
Nkurunziza’s governing CNDD-FDD party is this time backing retired Army General Evariste Ndayishimiye, 52, as its residential candidate. Ndayishimiye, who is a former rebel commander, heads the department of military affairs in the president’s office and is also the party’s secretary-general.
Ndayishimiye’s main challenger is Agathon Rwasa, a former rebel leader and candidate with the National Congress for Liberty party. The 56-year-old, a longtime opponent of Nkurunziza, boycotted the elections in 2010 and 2015 claiming they were not free and fair.
This time as well Rwasa warned about possible electoral fraud in his final rally on Sunday.
“We know there is plan of election fraud, some are even intimidating people asking for their voter cards to vote for them,” he said. “All of that is worthless.”
Unfortunately, the election won’t have any international observers. Last week, the Burundi government expelled four World Health Organization’s (WHO) officials in the country, accusing them of unacceptable interference in its management of the coronavirus.