Burundi: Counting Underway in Vote to Endorse Nkurunziza “Eternal Guide”

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Vote counting is underway in Burundi. Thursday’s referendum asked nationals to say “yes” or “no” to constitutional amendments that would allow President Pierre Nkurunziza to rule until 2034.

Polling stations closed a few minutes past 17:00hrs local time.

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The changes will be adopted if more than 50 percent of ballots cast choose “yes” (as it is highly probable they will). About 4.8 million people signed up to vote, the electoral commission said, committing to announce results in 48 hours.

Ruling CNDD-FDD in March bestowed the title of “eternal supreme guide” on Nkurunziza, with a party official referring to him as “our elder, our father, our adviser.” 

Nkurunziza expressed happiness at the turnout, urging voters to go to the polls early so the result could be declared early.

“We take this opportunity to call on all people of voting age to do their civic duty and present themselves at polling stations as soon as possible, so that this exercise can be concluded,” he told reporters after casting his ballot in his home village of Ngozi.

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Nearly half a million people have fled since Nkurunziza, a 54-year-old former sports teacher and ethnic Hutu guerrilla leader, initially prolonged his decade in charge by running for a disputed third term in 2015.

He first came to power in 2005 at the end of a long civil war in which 300,000 died.