Referendum in Burundi could extend presidential term

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Campaigning is under way in Burundi for a referendum later this month that could extend the presidential term to seven years from the current five. If the vote goes through, incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza, would be free to run for office again in 2020.

He has been in power since 2005 and would then rule until 2034.

Campaigns for the referendum began a week ago. Twenty-six parties allied to the ruling CNDD -FDD party have been cleared to campaign ahead of the vote. Members of the opposition coalition CNARED, have called for a boycott of the referendum.

More than five million people are registered to vote in the referendum scheduled for May 17th. Under the Arusha Peace agreement signed in 2000, no president can govern for more than ten years.

The amendment would limit the president to two consecutive seven-year terms, but it would not take into account previous terms, that would extend Nkurunziza’s rule to 2034. Last week, the U.S. State Department condemned recent political violence in Burundi and expressed concern that the vote could hurt the country’s institutions.

In 2015, those who opposed Nkurunziza’s third term led a rebellion that left several people dead.