BUJUMBURA July 19th (ABP) – The organization of voting operations is included in the content of the new electoral code enacted on May 20, 2019 by Burundi Head of State Pierre Nkurunziza, in view of the planned general elections in 2020. A check by Burundi News Agency (ABP), after reviewing that legal text on which the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) has based to draft the 2020 electoral calendar, has revealed.
Thus, according to article 36 of the present code, the vote takes place on the date fixed by the decree of convocation of the voters and lasts only one day. It is open at six o’clock and closed at four o’clock. However, given certain circumstances, the chairperson of the Electoral Office may decide that the closure be postponed until 5 pm at the latest. The decision is motivated and recorded in the minutes of the polling process.
In Article 37, the new electoral law stipulates that voting takes place by means of a unique ballot paper, the model of which is fixed by the CENI. In addition, before the opening of the poll, the electoral office must ensure that the number of ballot papers is “sufficient” to cover the voting operations, taking into account any deterioration.
According to Article 38 of the Code, voting operations at the national level are conducted under the supervision of the CENI.
At the level of the province, the commune and the village or the neighborhood, the CENI is assisted by provincial and communal commissions whose members are appointed by the Commission of the directly higher level.
At each level, members are appointed to ensure political neutrality and ethnic and gender balances. The decision of appointment is notified to interested parties and posted at the doors of the Commission office at each level.
As for Article 39, it states that each polling station has one or more voting booths. Voting takes place in one or more ballot boxes depending on the type (s) of the poll, the model and location of which are determined by the CENI.
According to Article 40 of the Code, an electoral office, consisting of a chairperson and four members, is appointed for each polling station by the Independent Communal Electoral Commission (CECI) among the voters registered in the said office, with due respect to political, ethnic and gender balances.
The decision of appointment is notified to those concerned and posted at the doors of the polling station or at any other appropriate place near the polling station. It is also communicated to the representatives of the political parties working in the commune during a meeting convened for that purpose by the CECI.
In addition, a recourse against the non-respect of political, ethnic and gender diversity in the composition of the electoral office may be addressed to the Independent Provincial Electoral Commission (CEPI) by anyone, including political parties participating in elections, no later than three days after the appointment of that office. The CEPI makes final decisions within four calendar days of referral.
For Article 41 of the Code, it provides that each candidate has the right to control all electoral operations, including the verification of the quality and quantity of voting material from the opening of the polling station to the end of the count. That clause specifies that the control is kept by the agents designated for that purpose by each political party, each coalition of political parties or each independent candidate.
According to Article 42 of the Code, on polling day, political parties, political party coalitions or independent candidates may delegate their representatives to the polling stations. Each political party, each coalition of political parties or each independent candidate may not delegate more than two representatives per polling station.
In addition, the presence of representatives of political parties, political party coalitions and independent candidates is “mandatory and permanent” on all polling stations, from the opening of the polls to the signing of the minutes of the voting operations and results.
“In any case, the absence of one or the other representative of the political parties, coalitions of the political parties or independent candidates does not invalidate the results of the polling station concerned,” as explained in the 42nd Article of the new electoral code.
Moreover, “to the extent of the possibilities” of the government, the representatives appointed by the political parties, the coalitions of political parties or independent candidates competing at the polling stations and duly recognized by the CENI may benefit from a care.
According to paragraph 1 of Article 43 of the Code, the representatives must have all their observations recorded in the single minutes combining the voting operations and the results. Those observations are “obligatorily” followed by the signature of their authors.
Then, a copy of those minutes is given to the CECI, the CEPI, the CENI and to a representative per political party, coalition of political parties or candidate represented at the polling station and to the Constitutional Court, according to the type of ballot.
“The members of the polling station are obliged, for not exposing themselves to the penalties provided for in this code, to have all the observations addressed to them in view of paragraph 1 mentioned above. Only the recorded observations are taken into account in support of a subsequent application introducing electoral disputes,” according to paragraph 3 of the Article 43.
Paragraph 4 of the same Article adds that the signature or fingerprint of a representative present per political party, coalition of political parties or independent candidate on the minutes is mandatory. In all cases, insists the paragraph 5 of that Article, the non-signature or the absence of fingerprint of one or the other representative on the minutes does not invalidate the results.
Moreover, according to Article 44 of the Code, the chairperson of the polling station is responsible for taking all measures to ensure the proper conduct of the ballot and all the order and tranquility in and around the polling station.
Thus, he/she ensures the police of the vote and has the quality of judicial police officer (OPJ) with limited territorial and material competence. In that way, he/she notes the offenses committed inside and around the polling station. In addition, he/she may, for the above purposes, request the civil and military authorities to help him/her.
According to Article 45 of the Code, the quality of OPJ with limited territorial and material competence is also acknowledged, on polling day, to the members of the CENI and those of their branches. Finally, Article 46 of the Electoral Code, which closes this chapter on the organization of voting operations, deals with the swearing in of the CEPI and CECI members before the higher persons in authority before taking office.
The swearing in is the following: “Me … (state the name), I swear an oath to consciously and impartially ensure the regular conduct of the vote and faithfully count the votes”.
On the other hand, before taking office, the members of the polling station take an oath in writing before the CECI. The same oath is solemnly resumed in Kirundi in front of the present people before the effective start of the voting operations.