July 28, 2010 / 12:49 PM / in 8 years

Ruling party seen on top as Burundi picks senate

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza holds a news conference in Brussels October 23, 2009. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - Burundi district councillors voted on Wednesday for senators for the upper house of parliament in a contest expected to solidify the ruling CNDD-FDD party’s grip on power.

President Pierre Nkurunziza’s CNDD-FDD party, dominated by majority Hutus, is expected to easily trounce the minority Tutsi-dominated UPRONA party in the senatorial races, even though half of seats up for grabs are reserved for Tutsis.

Other, smaller parties are boycotting the election, fourth in a series of polls held by the central African nation since May, seen as test of stability for the coffee-producer after years of conflict between the two ethnic groups.

Voters have already picked the district councillors, the president and members of the lower house of parliament in direct elections, all won by CNDD-FDD with wide margins.

The 41-seat senate includes 34 indirectly-elected members chosen by the district councillors — one Hutu and one Tutsi from each of Burundi’s 17 provinces. Four former presidents also have seats, as do three members of the small ethnic Twa minority.

Despite being Hutu-led, the CNDD-FDD is expected to win some of the senate seats reserved for Tutsis, giving the party control of the senate as well as the other branches.

Analysts say the domination of one party puts democratic debate at risk in a country ranked by graft watchdog Transparency International as the most corrupt in east Africa.

“Burundi is facing a risk of returning to a single party system, CNDD-FDD taking up the majority of seats in the national assembly and in the senate, will try to impose laws,” said political analyst Simon Barumwete.

“Parliament’s role is to control the government’s actions and address criticism to the executive power when necessary. But in this context, I fear that legislators will say ‘yes’ to all draft bills presented by the government,” he told Reuters.

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