The National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) has declared to be unable to prohibit the Burundian government from campaigning for a "yes vote" in the upcoming constitutional referendum before allowing all other partners to do so.
CENI Spokesperson Prosper Ntahorwamiye says the government is taking advantage of the campaign to explain the content of the new draft constitution to the population to appeal to the population to vote "yes" which is against the electoral code.
He says the CENI has not yet authorized the "yes" or "no" campaign. "The time to tell people to vote "yes" or "no" has not yet come. That campaign will start 14 days before the polling day scheduled for May 2018," says Prosper Ntahorwamiye.
Léonce Ngendakumana, Opposition politician, says the commission has just shown that it can't give a reliable work. "I appreciate the honesty of the commission. This shows that it is dependent on the government and cannot give trustworthy results", he says.
Ngendakumana reminds that the referendum is the heart of all the following elections and appeals to CENI staff to resign from their position because they failed in their mission. "If they are unable to manage and treat both sides (government and opposition) equally, CENI members would better step down," he says.
For Kassim Abdul, Chairman of UPD Zigamibanga, there is nothing strange that the Burundian government is doing. "The government is the one that has prepared the referendum. It has the right to sensitize people to vote "yes". The opposition will have their time and it can still influence the voters," he says.
The referendum, which is scheduled for May 2018, aims to change the 2005 constitution that emanates from the Arusha Accords signed in 2000.