Feature: Burundians go to polls for presidential election with mixed feelings for sole candidate

17:26, June 28, 2010      

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Some 3.5 million Burundian citizens aged 18 years and above were expected to go to polls on Monday to elect their new president.

About 7,000 polling stations throughout Burundi's 17 provinces opened at 6 a.m. local time and are supposed to close at 4 p.m. local time.

The only candidate to the election is current President Pierre Nkurunziza of the ruling Conseil National pour la Défense de la Dé mocratie-Forces de Défense de la Démocratie (CNDD-FDD). He is alone in the presidential competition after six opposition candidates pulled out of the competition early this month, alleging massive fraud in the communal elections held on May 24 this year.

Incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza who is alone running another five-year term is praised for his initiative undertaken in 2006 for free education at elementary education and free medical care for mothers in maternity and pregnant women.

"I have voted for him because he is the only Head of State the country has ever known who allowed my children to study without paying school fees at primary school. My wife has also delivered twice and I didn't pay anything for all those medical services", Charles Mbanzendore told Xinhua on Monday morning after casting his ballot.

Mbanzendore stressed that he had to pay 82,000 Burundi francs equivalent to some 65 U.S. dollarsin 2002 under the transitional government when his wife delivered at Prince Régent Charles, one of the biggest hospitals in the capital Bujumbura.

Another man queuing to cast his ballot at one of Ngagara's polling stations in the Municipality of Bujumbura told Xinhua he is going to vote for Pierre Nkurunziza "in a bid to allow him to continue his program on education and health".

"I'm going to vote for him (Pierre Nkurunziza) because he lessened the burden of the population by abolishing school fees at primary education and bills for mothers in maternity and pregnant women", said Jean Marie Bizimana.

Bizimana added that Nkurunziza is a good president since during his last five-year rule he has been close to the population by touring all the country corners, meeting the grassroots population and listening to them.

Some voters say Nkurunziza is better than the majority of the opposition candidates who pulled out of the presidential elections.

"I would have voted for Yves Sahinguvu, current Burundi's First Vice-President from the Union pour le Progrès National [UPRONA], but as he pulled out of the presidential elections, I am going to vote for Pierre Nkurunziza", said Thierry Kitamoya, a voter who was on his way to a polling station in Musaga urban Commune.

He added that among the opposition candidates who pulled out of the elections, he would not for instance vote either for Pascaline Kampayano of the Union pour la Paix et le Développement (UPD- ZIGAMIBANGA) or Agathon Rwasa of the Forces Nationales de Libé ration (FNL) because they are not better than Pierre Nkurunziza.

While preparations for voting operations ended at 6 a.m. local time at a polling station in Ngagara's Section III, no voter had reported there at 6: 10 a.m.

A citizen met near the polling station told Xinhua he is going to do his own business because "These elections don't have a meaning". "Going to the polls for me to elect the president is nonsense because there's no competition with only one candidate running", said Jean Paul Niyonkuru, a man doing housework at Ngagara Section III.

Hussein Niyonzima met near a polling station in Buyenzi said he cannot waste his time going to vote because "today's [Monday's] elections don't mean anything to him because there is lack of competition".

"Casting a vote or not doing it is the same because Nkurunziza has to be the president because he is the only candidate to the elections. Even if all Burundians would vote against him, I am sure the Electoral Commission would say Burundians voted for him", said Hussein Niyonzima who was heading to a garage in Buyenzi where he works.

Burundi is in a democratic electoral process, the third in the country's history after elections held in 1993 and in 2005.

Results of the communal elections held on May 24 were rejected by the opposition. The presidential elections now being organized will be followed by the election of deputies due on July 23. The fourth poll will be that of senators and is due on July 28. The last one is the village-based election which will be held on Sept. 7.

Source: Xinhua


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