Burundi sets July date for presidential elections

AP News
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Posted: Jun 10, 2015 1:54 PM
Burundi sets July date for presidential elections

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Burundi's controversial presidential elections are now set for July 15 after President Pierre Nkurunziza signed a decree accepting the electoral commission's proposal, a presidential spokesman said Wednesday.

Parliamentary polls will be held on June 29, according to the decree signed Tuesday night, said Gervais Abayeho.

Burundi's government had been under pressure to delay the polls by several weeks amid ongoing unrest over Nkurunziza's controversial bid for a third term.

Opposition groups have said the current electoral commission panel lacks the authority because it is missing members — two of whom are believed to have fled the country due to the unrest.

It is unclear how delaying elections by a few weeks will reduce the ire of opposition groups who are calling the president's third term bid unconstitutional.

Burundi has been hit by demonstrations since the announcement April 25 that Nkurunziza would seek a third term in office.

Protesters say Nkurunziza's bid is illegal because the constitution only allows for two five-year terms after popular elections. Some protesters are vowing to stay on the streets until Nkurunziza withdraws his candidacy. At least 20 civilians have been killed in clashes with police who have used a combination of tear gas, water cannon and live ammunition.

Burundi has had a long history of political upheaval, including political assassinations and coups.

Nkurunziza came to power in 2005 and won a second term in 2010. He maintains he is eligible for a third term because he was elected by parliament the first time around, rather than through universal suffrage. The nation's constitutional court has ruled in his favor.