Sat. Nov 27th, 2021

Burundians overwhelmingly voted for constitutional reforms bolstering President Pierre Nkurunziza’s powers and giving him the option to stay in office until 2034, official results showed Monday.

Election commission chief Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye said 73 percent of voters had voted “Yes” in a referendum to change the constitution and 19 percent had voted “No”, with a turnout of 96 percent.

Last week’s referendum in Burundi asked voters to say “yes” or “no” to amendments extending the presidential term from five to seven years and allowing Nkurunziza to seek two more terms beginning in 2020.

Commission chairman Ndayicariye told a news conference that 96 percent of the 4.7 million registered voters cast ballots last Thursday.

Rights groups said campaigning and the vote itself took place in a climate of fear and intimidation. The government, however, insisted the vote would be free and fair.

Observers had widely expected the reforms to pass, partly due to support Nkurunziza still holds in rural areas, but also due to a three-year crackdown on dissent.
Nkurunziza, first elected by parliament in 2005, won re-election and then a third, much contested, poll in 2015.

But his announcement he was standing again that year despite being constitutionally limited to two terms sparked an attempted coup and a crackdown which cost at least 1,200 lives and left more than 400,000 homeless.

Before the referendum results were declared Monday, opposition groups had said they would not recognise the results of last week’s vote.