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Burundi's controversial referendum set for May 17


Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, has set May 17 as the referendum date for a controversial constitutional reform, according to a presidential decree signed on Sunday March 18.

The election could allow President Nkurunziza, 54, who has been in office since 2005, to remain in power until 2034.

The decree specifies that the reform will be adopted if the proportion of favorable votes is 50% plus one vote, and that parties or individuals wishing to participate in the campaign for or against this reform must register with the Independent National Electoral Commission ( CENI) between March 23 and April 6.

Official campaign will only begin two weeks before the referendum, and no one is yet allowed to openly defend yes or no.

But the opposition denounces a “double standard, blatant measures”, saying that the ministers and leaders of the ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), do not hesitate to campaign for yes for several months. At the same time, dozens of opposition activists were arrested and tried for promoting no.

The opposition also denounced forced enrollment of voters to face, according to it, “the lack of enthusiasm” of the population for this referendum.

The CENI announced on February 20 that more than 5 million Burundians had registered on the electoral lists for the referendum and the general elections of 2020.

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