More than five million people have signed up to vote in Burundi’s controversial constitutional referendum in May and elections in 2020, which could allow President Pierre Nkurunziza to remain in power until 2034.
By the end of the inscription process on Saturday, “a total of 5,000,742 people” signed up, including Burundians living abroad, Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) was quoted as saying Tuesday by local media. The figure was higher than CENI’s estimate of 4.5 million earlier. This includes those who will be of voting age in time for the referendum as well as people who will become adult by the 2020 general elections, Ndayicariye said. The CENI has not stated how many of the registered people will need to wait until 2020 to be of voting age.
Former rebel leader Nkurunziza, 54, has ruled the densely populated country since 2005 after a devastating civil war and critics accuse him of becoming a dictator who refuses to quit.
The government of the small central African country said the turnout showed “the eagerness and patriotic sense” of citizens who were also “initiators” of the constitutional referendum.
Throughout the voter registration, the political opposition claimed that people were being forcibly enrolled mainly in rural areas, while the press reported a widespread lack of enthusiasm.