Burundi envoy says elections will go ahead

AP News
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Posted: Jun 26, 2015 6:05 PM
Burundi envoy says elections will go ahead

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Burundi's U.N. ambassador said Friday that elections will go ahead over the next month, saying 95 percent of the country wants to vote and not remain hostage to a "radical minority" that keeps seeking postponements.

Albert Shingiro told a Security Council meeting that another postponement would plunge the government into a constitutional vacuum.

'The government simply cannot accept to tumble head first into an institutional vacuum, into a chasm," he said. "We're going to move forward to elections on Monday."

Agathon Rwasa, a leading opposition candidate, said earlier Friday that elections should be postponed until conditions to make the polls free and fair are met.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, expressing deep concern at the political and security environment in Burundi, also appealed to the government on Friday to seriously consider the proposal by the African Union and groups in the region to further postpone the elections in order to create conditions for an "inclusive, peaceful and transparent" vote, his spokesman said.

But Shingiro said Monday's election for communal representatives, the July 15 presidential election and the election of senators on July 25 are "the latest possible dates which will respect the constitution."

Burundi has experienced weeks of unrest since the ruling party's April 26 announcement that President Pierre Nkurunziza will run for a third term in office. At least 77 people have died in street protests opposing Nkurunziza's bid for a third term. The street protests boiled over in mid-May, leading to an attempted coup.

Rwasa, who is vying for the presidency as an independent candidate, said elections should not be held in current conditions, characterized by insecurity and by lack of freedom of expression and movement. There is intimidation and assassination of opposition figures, and more than 127,000 people have fled the country for fear of violence, he said in a telephone interview.

Rwasa said Nkurunziza should withdraw his candidacy which violates the constitution's two-term limit for presidents. He said the opposition is not boycotting elections as they did in 2010 but wants a postponement and dialogue with the government until the issues impeding democratic polls are resolved.

"We are for a credible process. It is clear that the so-called elections are not going to be credible," he said.

The Security Council adopted a presidential statement Friday reiterating "its deep concern regarding the grave security and political situation in Burundi" ahead of elections. U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations were private, said the council did not mention a postponement of elections because Russia insists that elections are an internal matter for the government.

The council welcomed African efforts to address the crisis and the resumption of talks between all the Burundian parties.

Shingiro said the government is doing its best to come up with concessions, "but the opposition ... are spoiled children, who desire absolutely everything." He said the government is not in a position to accept more concessions.

To improve security and create a climate "conducive for the elections," he said law enforcement agencies have collected 100,000 weapons from groups affiliated to political parties and is accelerating collections.

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Lederer reported from the United Nations. Associated Press writer Tom Odula contributed to this report from Nairobi, Kenya