Burundi elections: what’s at stake and what to expect

Press/Media: Articles in 'The Conversation'


On 20 May 2020, Burundians head to the polls to elect a new president. Incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza has promised to step aside after 15 years in office. The ruling party has selected an army general, Evariste Ndayishimiye, as its candidate.

Nkurunziza’s election in 2015 was controversial. It triggered a failed military coup d'etat and a crackdown on opposition. Many journalists and human rights defenders went into exile.

Three years later in 2018 he announced that he would not stand for re-election.

It’s 15 years since Burundi emerged from a 12-year civil war between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. Initially the peace agreement reached between the two groups was hailed as a success. But in the intervening years the country has experienced deterioration in both human rights and economic conditions.

Most observers expect Nkurunziza will peacefully relinquish office after the 2020 poll. But it is unlikely to spell the end of social, political, and economic instability.

While the ruling party remains in power, the expectation is that there will be a further tightening of authoritarian rule and declining living conditions. The ruling party is determined to safeguard its hold on power, even at the cost of a collapsing social order.

Period30 Apr 2020

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