AFRICA/BURUNDI - Elections: "Voting took place in a peaceful manner, but we have found several irregularities", say the Bishops

Wednesday, 27 May 2020 elections   bishops   justice  

Bujumbura (Agenzia Fides) - "From the reports of our election observers, we recognize that the elections were generally held in a peaceful manner. However, we deplore several irregularities regarding the freedom and transparency of the electoral process, as well as the impartiality in the treatment of candidates and voters, which must mark truly democratic elections", says a message sent to Agenzia Fides by the Episcopal Conference of Burundi, on the presidential, parliamentary and local elections which were held on 20 May.
The President elected by the vote is Evariste Ndayishimiye, who won with 68.70% of the votes by beating opposition candidate Agathon Rwasa who obtained 24.19% of the votes. Former General Ndayishimiye was the candidate of the outgoing President's party, Pierre Nkurunziza, who had reached the end of his controversial third term, obtained with a change of the Constitution that caused tensions and violence.
The Bishops recall that "they had commissioned 2716 observers for the triple ballot on May 20, 2020. Although their number proved to be lower than the number of polling stations, they were able to reach all the municipalities to be placed in key seats". "Based on the report they sent us, and pending the final report, we believe it useful and relevant to publish the following press release", says the text.
Observers of the Catholic Church have found several irregularities, in particular: the pressure exerted on some presidents of the polling station to sign the electoral minutes before the start of the polling; the filling of some ballot boxes with cards already filled out; the vote in place of the deceased and Burundian refugees abroad; in some polling stations voters voted more than once; the exclusion of officials and observers from the counting of votes; intimidation and impediments exercised on the voters by some administrators who accompanied them to the voting booths; the intrusion of unauthorized people in the places where the votes were counted; respect for the secrecy of the vote was not always guaranteed.
"In the face of all these irregularities and many others, we ask ourselves if they do not compromise the result that must be proclaimed", say the Bishops who, however, condemn both illegal acts and the use of violence. "As we have said on other occasions, those who believe that their rights have been violated, must appeal to the competent courts to obtain justice".
"We conclude with an appeal to the population, to trust in God who remains the only Lord in history and to remain calm", concludes the Bishops’ message. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 27/5/2020)