Burundi’s president joined long lines of voters Thursday in a referendum that could extend his rule until 2034, despite widespread opposition and fears that the country’s years of deadly political turmoil will continue. “I thank all Burundians who woke up early in the morning to do this noble patriotic gesture,” President Pierre Nkurunziza said after casting his ballot in his home province of Ngonzi. Nkurunziza had campaigned forcefully for the constitutional changes that include extending the president’s term from five years to seven. That could give him another 14 years in power when his current term expires in 2020. He is the latest in a number of African leaders who are changing their countries’ constitutions or using other means to stay in office.
Nkurunziza’s opponents say he already has ruled longer than the constitution allows. More than 1,200 people have been killed in protests in this East African nation since he decided in April 2015 to pursue a disputed third term.
Observers in recent days have expressed alarm at reported violence and intimidation of the referendum’s perceived opponents, including threats of drowning and castration.
A presidential decree criminalized calls to abstain from voting Thursday, with a penalty of up to three years in jail.
Full Article: Burundi votes on extending president’s power until 2034.