Burundi: EISA evaluation of the legislative election of July 4, 2005

Introduction

On July 4 2005 Burundians went to poll to elect the National Assembly. The Assembly that will be made up of 100 Deputies is one of the two chambers of the Parliament, the other one being the Senate. In total 26 parties and a few independent candidates took part in the competition with the number of competitors varying from constituency to constituency. As could be expected the constituency with maximum party lists was the Capital city Bujumbura where all 26 parties were in competition. Eight parties presented lists in all seventeen constituencies and three did so in 15 constituencies. Most parties were present in about five to eight constituencies.

During the days preceding the election the political climate was tense. The recent victory of the former rebel group CNDD-FDD in the Communal election had been contested by their main opponent Frodebu. The electoral campaign for the Legislative election had been marked by harsh speeches, including open threats with Frodebu President Jean Minani appealing his supporters "to resist" in case of CNDD-FDD victory. Moreover, the national opinion was worried that FNL would repeat what it did on the Communal election when it prevented the vote from taking place in Rural Bujumbura and Bubanza provinces.

The voting

In most places the voting started at 6am as officially set or around 6h30. In general the voting was faster than in the Communal election thanks to a better training of the poll agents. The logistics was efficient and only a few cases of shortage of material were brought up, but with the help of UN helicopters the problems were quickly solved. The delay in opening the voting stations was sometimes due to the fact that the poll agents lived quite far from the voting centers or casual incidents like a President of the voting center losing keys on the Election Day in Gitega.

The CENI had issued a new instruction that the voting stations be closed at 4pm. The voters who had arrived before 4pm but were still waiting in queues had their voter cards collected by the poll agents so they could vote. Generally, the voters who arrived at the polling stations after 4pm were not allowed to vote. In most places the counting was completed by 6pm. But in some places, like in Bwiza, Bujumbura, the counting was not completed before 11h30pm. The counting was done in transparence, in presence of party agents and neutral Observers.

Irregularities

A few irregularities were noted. The most frequent was about poll agents dealing with voters who did not have their IDs. According to the CENI instructions registered voters without IDs should be allowed to vote provided that they can be identified by at least two voters registered at the same voting center. Also registered voters who may have lost their voter cards but are dully registered could be allowed to vote if they have IDs. The execution of these two instructions gave place to many misinterpretations and some voters were not allowed to vote while they should, whereas others were allowed to vote while they should not.

Other irregularities were about voters trying to take away the ballot papers that they did not use. Some of the voters got arrested by the police. When asked why they behaved as they did, some of them declared that they only wanted to keep the ballot papers as souvenirs. There were also cases of voters -including poll agents- trying to introduce two envelopes in the box. Situations were also mentioned where party agents were caught doing propaganda on the election day either by talking to voters one to one or by displaying ostensibly their party emblems. The police dealt with most of the incidents in the appropriate way.