Burundi’s main opposition coalition asked the constitutional court on Thursday to invalidate the results of last week’s referendum on constitutional changes to allow the president to stay in power until 2034.
The leader of Amizero y’Abarundi’s parliamentary group alleged that the vote was marred by intimidation and abuses. Pierre Celestin Ndikumana told reporters they were optimistic “considering the extent of the complaints.”
The government of the East African nation did not immediately respond to the legal challenge.
The election commission on Monday said more than 73 percent of 4.7 million voters supported the constitutional amendments, which include extending the president’s term from five years to seven. That could give President Pierre Nkurunziza another 14 years in power when his current term expires in 2020.
The constitutional court still has five days to validate the results of the May 17 referendum, which the opposition denounced as an effort by the 54-year-old Nkurunziza to cling to power.
The court three years ago validated Nkurunziza’s third term, which the opposition and many international observers saw as unconstitutional. Months of deadly political turmoil followed, with more than 1,200 people killed and hundreds of thousands fleeing the country.
International Criminal Court judges last year authorized an investigation into allegations of state-sponsored crimes — a decision unaffected by Burundi’s unprecedented withdrawal from the ICC.
Observers ahead of last week’s referendum expressed alarm at reported violence and intimidation of its perceived opponents, including threats of drowning and castration. A presidential decree criminalized calls to abstain from voting, with a penalty of up to three years in jail.
The government rejects allegations of abuses, calling them propaganda by exiles.