The lone remaining opposition candidate in this month’s presidential election in Burundi has quit the race because of concerns the vote will be rigged, leaving incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza without a challenger.
Yves Sahinguvu, who serves as deputy president under Nkurunziza, became the sixth candidate to drop out in the past week when his UPRONA party announced the withdrawal last week.
Opposition parties have accused Burundi’s National Electoral Commission (CENI) of failing to prevent fraud during district elections last month, in which the ruling CNDD-FDD party won 64% of the vote.
CENI has rejected opposition calls for a re-run of that vote and said the presidential election, scheduled for June 28, would go ahead in spite of the boycott.
“We wished to see all candidates staying in the competition. It is their right if they decided to opt out,” CENI chairman Pierre Claver Ndayicariye told a news conference.
“Anyway, elections can take place with one candidate, two candidates or more,” he added.
European Union observers have said the district vote met international standards. And foreign diplomats in Burundi issued a joint statement calling on the opposition candidates who withdrew from the presidential race earlier this week to reconsider their decision.
Analysts say the boycott is a serious blow to the landlocked country’s fragile democracy. The presidential vote has been seen as a test of stability for the coffee-producing nation of 8 million people.
Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader, has been widely expected to win a second term. Burundi has enjoyed relative peace since the Forces for National Liberation (FNL), the last Hutu guerrilla group, agreed to lay down its weapons and join the government last year.
Pic: President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi