Burundi MPs reject disputed draft constitution

Friday March 21 2014
bur pres

President Pierre Nkurunziza has suffered a major setback after a revised constitution he was pushing was defeated in a close parliamentary vote. PHOTO | FILE

Burundi’s parliament failed Friday to adopt the government’s highly controversial measures to revise the constitution, which could have threatened a delicate ethnic balance in a nation still healing from decades of conflict.

Lawmakers blocked the changes by a single vote, parliamentary speaker Pie Ntavyohanyuma said, adding that the “draft revision of the constitution is therefore rejected”.

It also blocks the president from seeking a third term in office, likely to enrage President Pierre Nkurunziza, who was expected to campaign for a third mandate in elections scheduled for 2015.

Nkurunziza’s ruling CNDD-FDD party holds the majority in parliament but the constitutional changes needed four-fifths of votes to pass, with the bid failing by just one vote.

Growing tensions

Parliament’s decision comes amid growing tensions in the central African country, with international concern about tensions between the opposition and the government.


READ: Burundi tense on Nkurunziza third term push

The government had argued that its proposed changes were but a simple and minor “tweaking” of the constitution, but critics accused Bujumbura of seeking to bolster power in the ruling party.

The opposition had warned that the move risked awakening old ethnic demons which have plagued the small country, torn in the past by civil war, rebellion and massacres.