BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - Burundians voted on Friday in a parliamentary election, one of a series of ballots seen as a test for the central African country’s democratic credentials after years of civil war.
Five political parties, including the Tutsi-dominated UPRONA which boycotted June’s presidential poll, are contesting the ballot and voters hope the new assembly will spur the impoverished country’s leadership to providing basic services.
Political observers say President Pierre Nkurunziza’s CNDD-FDD party is likely to win a comfortable majority after most opposition parties, including the Forces for National Liberation (FNL) led by former rebel leader Agathon Rwasa, decided to boycott the parliamentary poll.
“We people living in outskirts of the city are facing a lot of problems. We don’t have basic infrastructure, no roads, no water, no electricity,” said Leocadie Niyonzima, a mother of four living in a northern suburb.
“We want the new members of parliament to initiate development projects which take into account the basic needs of the population,” she told Reuters.
Burundi is a small, landlocked, coffee-producing nation of 8 million people emerging from more than a decade of civil war that killed 300,000 people. It is a member of the East African Community along with Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda.
The assembly has a minimum of 100 seats: 60 for Hutus and 40 for Tutsis and at least 30 must be women. If there is a shortfall of either ethnic group, or in the number of women, additional legislators can be nominated to make up the numbers.
A further three additional seats are reserved for the Twa ethnic group.
But analysts fear the next lower house will be so dominated by one political party that real democratic debate will be difficult in a country ranked by Transparency International as the most corrupt in east Africa.
“The MPs we are electing today should put pressure on the government so that it definitely sorts out the problem of electricity,” said 22-year-old Aron Bikorimana. “It is really a shame to see the country’s main city Bujumbura with no power.”