A group of 17 political parties have agreed to boycott elections in Burundi because they don’t believe they will be free and fair, an opposition leader said Thursday. The opposition groups are also opposed to the current electoral commission because it isn’t complete after two of its five members fled, said Frederic Bamvuginyumvira, deputy head of a party known by its initials as FRODEBU. Burundi has been rocked by unrest since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his plans to run for a third term, which many see as unconstitutional even though the nation’s constitutional court has ruled in the president’s favor.
Security forces have used a combination of live ammunition, tear gas and water cannon to break up months of protests in the nation’s capital, Bujumbura. At least 20 civilians have been killed and hundreds more wounded in the clashes.
Amid the chaos, which has forced about 90,000 people to flee to neighboring countries, the government is pressing ahead with elections, saying any lengthy delay would lead to a dangerous power vacuum and possibly more violence.
Presidential elections are now scheduled for July 15 and parliamentary polls will take place on June 29.