4 July 2005

Burundi: Legislative Elections Held With Only Minor Incidents

Bujumbura — Burundians took a major step on Monday towards ending the post-conflict transition period by electing the 100 members of the country's national assembly with only minor incidents.

There were some irregularities, the head of the UN Mission in Burundi's (ONUB) Electoral Unit, Ahmadou Seck, said on Monday at a news conference in Bujumbura, the capital. He said unlike the 3 June municipal elections, no polling stations were disrupted. The chairman of the National Independent Electoral Commission, Paul Ngarambe, reported only minor problems which, he said, would not affect the outcome of the elections.

Preliminary results are expected on Tuesday.

Polls opened at 6 a.m. (04:00 GMT), although some stations did not begin until around 8 a.m. (06.00 GMT).

By midday, turnout was still low, Seck said, with only around 11 percent of votes cast, except in Gitega Province where voting had already reached 40 percent.

Many Burundians were staying away from fear of attacks by the sole rebel group still active in the country, the Forces of National Liberation (FNL). During the 3 June municipal elections, FNL fighters disrupted voting in several areas in the province of Bujumbura Rural, where they are most active, and Bubanza.

However, speaking at a news conference on Sunday, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to Burundi, Carolyn MacAskie, had assured Burundians that the legislative elections would be safe. She said the FNL had pledged it would not disrupt the polls and that the UN had deployed 2,000 troops throughout the country.

Voting was observed by monitors from the European Union, the Francophonie organisation of French-speaking states, ONUB, the local coalition of civic society for the monitoring of elections known as COSOME, and other civic society groups.

The creation of the new national assembly is a major milestone in ending the country's 11-year civil war. The assembly will be made up of 60 percent Hutus and 40 percent Tutsis in accordance with a power-sharing deal laid out in the 2000 Arusha peace agreement.

In Burundi's next elections on 29 July, Burundians will elect the Senate. Then on 19 August, the newly-elected senators, together with the newly-elected assemblymen, will choose the country's new head of state.

Speaking from his native province of Kayanza on Wednesday, Burundi's current interim president, Domitien Ndayizeye, appealed to "the winner to rule for all Burundians and to the loser to respect the people's choice".

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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