Can Burundi hold election on July 15, amid violence?

In reaction to persistent, near-daily demonstrations, the electoral commission has proposed a new date of July 15. Now, it's down to President Nkurunziza to respond.

Gildas Ngingo/AP
Mourners in Burundi's capital, Bujumbura, march and sing songs against President Nkurunziza running for a third term at the funeral of a protestor who was shot dead by police Friday. One holds a banner in French reading 'Stop the assassination of students.'

Burundi's electoral commission proposed Monday that a presidential election be held July 15 in the Central African nation despite persistent violence over the president's disputed bid for a third term.

Gunfire rang out Monday as heavily armed police in Bujumbura, the capital, surrounded some neighborhoods in a bid to stop protesters from gathering. The city has seen near-daily protests.

A new electoral schedule has been sent to President Pierre Nkurunziza for his approval, Prosper Ntahorwamiye, a spokesman for Burundi's electoral commission, told The Associated Press. The presidential poll had previously been scheduled for June 26.

The commission also set June 26 as a possible new date for choosing members of the national assembly, he said Monday. The panel is now awaiting a presidential decree either confirming those dates or setting new ones, he said.

Frederic Bamvuginyumvira, a prominent opposition figure, said the electoral commission lacked the legal authority to make any pronouncements because two of its five regular members are believed to have fled the country. More than 90,000 Burundians have fled the country, fearing violence.

Burundi has been hit by political unrest since the announcement April 25 that Nkurunziza would seek a third term in office, which many see as unconstitutional. The country's constitutional court has ruled in favor of him, however.

Amid the chaos, the regional bloc known as the East African Community had asked the Burundian government to postpone the elections for at least 45 days to calm the situation.

Burundi has had a long history of political upheaval, including political assassinations and coups.

Protesters say Nkurunziza's bid for a third term is illegal because the constitution only allows for two five-year terms. Some protesters are vowing to stay on the streets until Nkurunziza says he will not run.

Nkurunziza came to power in 2005 and won a second term in 2010. He maintains he is eligible for a third term because parliament elected him for the first term.

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