Recent Elections: In 2010 the government held five separate elections: communal councils (May), presidential (June), National Assembly (July), Senate (July), and village councils (September). Voter turnout in the communal elections was more than 90 percent. Following the communal elections, a coalition of 12 parties withdrew and boycotted the remaining four elections. Following the withdrawal of the opposition coalition, the CNDD-FDD’s presidential candidate, Pierre Nkurunziza, ran unopposed, and the CNDD-FDD won absolute majorities in the National Assembly and Senate.
The EU’s Election Observation Mission, which monitored the five elections, noted that the presidential and communal council elections were largely peaceful and generally well managed by the Independent Electoral Commission. Nevertheless, the mission reported that the political and electoral environment was characterized by unfair use by the CNDD-FDD of government facilities and financial resources during the campaigns, the absence of pluralistic competition, and government and ruling party restrictions on the freedoms of political party expression and assembly of its competitors. Members of the youth wings of several rival political parties were the main perpetrators of intimidation and violence before, during, and after the elections.
Political Parties and Political Participation: According to the law, to qualify for public campaign funding and compete in the 2015 legislative and presidential elections, parties must be “nationally based” (ethnically and regionally diverse) and demonstrate in writing that they are organized and have membership in all provinces. As of November the Ministry of Interior recognized 38 political parties. Three other parties--FNL (Forces for National Liberation)-Rwasa, UPRONA-Nditije, and UPD (Union for Peace and Development)-Mugwengezo--had members but were not officially recognized. In 2013 there were 42 registered political parties, the vast majority based on family, clan, or region and representing localized interests.
The increasingly involvement of the Ministry of Interior in opposition party leadership and management kept political parties weak and fractured. In March 2013 the ruling party and opposition met during a UN-backed workshop and agreed on a roadmap for the 2015 elections as well as the adoption of an electoral code. After the meetings ended, the government pulled back from its commitments, stating the law and constitution allow only legally constituted political parties, coalitions of political parties, and independent candidates to run for office, and that unrecognized leaders of parties and political actors not associated with a party could play no role in the political process. This stance effectively disenfranchised opposition party wings and prevented their leaders from developing platforms and running campaigns in the months before the 2015 elections.
The UPRONA party, for example, was officially led by Concilie Nibigira, but the vast majority of UPRONA’s members were loyal to Charles Nditije, whom the government did not recognize as the party leader. When the majority wing of UPRONA attempted to legitimate the leadership of Nditije by a meeting and vote of the Central Committee, the Ministry of Interior prevented the meeting from taking place, claiming the Central Committee did not have permission to use UPRONA’s party headquarters. The government-recognized wing expelled Nditije from UPRONA, and Nditije lost his legal ability to work in politics.
Authorities harassed opposition party members. For example, in May, SNR agents in Rutana Province arrested three members of the opposition Union for Peace and Development-Zigamibanga party. The three, who had met illegally in a home with another friend, reportedly were held for several days and then released without charge.
Although the constitution provides that only a court conviction may prevent an otherwise qualified individual from running for office, the government interpreted articles 94 and 95 of the electoral code as denying any person with a pending charge the opportunity to run in an election. At year’s end several opposition members found themselves charged with a variety of crimes.
Violence perpetrated by the Imbonerakure accompanied increasing restrictions on political parties. According to AI, members of the Imbonerakure “intimidated political opposition members, prevented political party meetings, and attacked members of the political opposition with impunity.” Between January and September, the Imbonerakure were accused of 90 serious acts of violence, 64 of which were committed against opposition members. In 17 of the acts, the Imbonerakure collaborated with police or the local administration. In four cases the implicated members of the Imbonerakure were school directors, indicating that not all Imbonerakure members were unemployed youth and that political interference extended to schools. According to AI, the government did not effectively investigate allegations of such abuse or bring those responsible to justice.
In contrast to the restrictions imposed on opposition parties, the ruling party used government resources for campaign and other purposes. For example, in August the CNDD-FDD reportedly distributed public health system cards to sympathizers in the countryside. Additionally the party reportedly provided national identity cards to underage youth who promised to vote for its candidates and denied registration to nonparty voters.
Participation of Women and Minorities: The constitution reserves 30 percent of seats in the National Assembly, the Senate, and the communal councils for women. There were 35 women in the 106-seat National Assembly and 18 women in the 41-seat Senate. The constitution also mandates that 30 percent of appointed government positions be set aside for women, a target that was met. Women held seven of 21 ministerial positions. Additionally, there were seven women on the 25-member Supreme Court and three women on the seven-member Constitutional Court.
The constitution provides for representation in all elected and appointed government positions for the two main ethnic groups: the Hutu majority is entitled to no more than 60 percent and the Tutsi minority to no less than 40 percent. Three seats in each chamber of parliament are designated for the Twa ethnic group, who make up less than 1 percent of the population.