November 23, 2014 / 4:51 PM / 5 years ago

Burundi opposition calls for postponement of voter registration

BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - Burundi’s opposition parties have asked the country’s electoral body to postpone voter registration because of electoral fraud and growing violence.

Burundi, an East African nation of nearly 10 million people, is due to hold presidential, legislative and municipal elections in 2015.

Ten opposition parties including the largest wing of former Hutu rebel group, the Forces for National Liberation (FNL) led by Agathon Rwasa, urged the national election commission to delay the registration process.

“We asked the election commission to postpone the registration in order to correct irregularities in the selection and recruitment of people who will enlist voters,” said Tacien Sibomana, spokesman for the largest wing of the Tutsi dominant party (UPRONA) who spoke on behalf of the 10 opposition parties.

“The majority of people who will register voters are members of the ruling CNDD-FDD, this shows that the ruling party together with the election board have planned to cheat elections by setting a false voters’ list,” he told Reuters.

The registration is due to start on Monday and close Dec. 7.

Sibomana cited attacks perpetrated several weeks ago by unidentified men armed with machetes as one recent example of violence.

The opposition suspects the attackers are youth militia affiliated to the CNDD-FDD. Burundi authorities denied this and said people who have been attacking households in the capital Bujumbura and in some rural areas are former prisoners set free after a presidential pardon.

“We are seeing rising criminality and targeted attacks across the country. This shows conditions are not met to have a fair registration process,” Sibomana said.

The election commission says everything is in place to register voters.

“There is no reason to delay the voters’ registration,” said Prosper Ntahorwamiye, spokesman for the commission.

The commission estimates that 4.2 million voters will participate in next year’s elections. Burundi will hold legislative and communal elections on May 26, followed by presidential polls on June 26 and a Senate election on July 17.

Reporting by Patrick Nduwimana; Editing by George Obulutsa and Stephen Powell

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