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Has Burundian coup bid strengthened President Nkurunziza?

Asumpta LattusMay 20, 2015

In Burundi legislative elections due on May 26 have been postponed by 10 days. This follows an unsuccessful bid to overthrow President Pierre Nkurunziza who is seeking a third term in office.

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza
Image: Getty Images/AFP/F.Guillot

Street protests are continuing in Burundi as opponents of President Pierre Nkurunziza, who survived a coup attempt last week, continue to voice their objections to his bid to run for a third term in office. On Wednesday, security forces fired shots and tear gas in clashes with protesters in the capital Bujumbura. A soldier was reportedly shot dead by police, raising tensions between the two forces. Also on Wednesday, the presidency announced that legislative elections scheduled for May 26 would be postponed until June 5. DW has been talking to Julia Grauvogel, a political analyst with the GIGA Institute in Hamburg.

DW: Have international mediation efforts to defuse tensions in Burundi shown any effect?

Julia Grauvogel: I believe the decision by Nkurunziza to postpone the parliamentary and local elections by a week occurred, at least partially, in response to these international calls.

Protesters have been demonstrating for weeks now and are still continuing. Is a postponement of one week enough to stabilize the country?

I don't think so. Currently we are only talking about the postponement of the parliamentary and local elections. The crucial question will be whether the presidential elections will also be postponed. I don't think one week will be enough but I also do not think the parliamentary elections are the key issue.

Julia Grauvogel
Julia Grauvogel is with the Institute of African Affairs at GIGA in HamburgImage: GIGA/Marein Kasiske

Do you see them also postponing the presidential elections?

It's hard to say. The postponement of the presidential elections is so closely related to Nkurunziza's attempt to stay in power and his attempt to run for a third term that this would obviously affect his power position much more severely. I think he will try and explore all other avenues of calming down the conflict before he would turn to postponing the elections.

Some people say the failed coup has strengthened President Nkurunziza's plan to run for a third term in office. Others go farther and say the coup was even partially planned by him. How do you think the coup has stabilized him?

I think he was determined to run for a third term. Before the attempted coup we saw weeks of demonstrations and he was always very clear that he would seek a third term. Then we had the decision by the consitutional court which confirmed his re-election bid even though this decision, according to everything we know, was not taken freely and without pressure. The question whether he is now strengthened after the coup attempt is a really difficult one. On the one hand he showed that he is able to survive such a coup attempt, that he managed to return to the country, that there are people especially in the police force but also in the army who are loyal to him. But on the other hand, the coup attempt also showed the grievances within the army and within the population. There were pictures of people taking to the streets, happy and full of joy after the coup was announced. This undermines his image as a universally popular president within the country and in that respect I do not think the failed coup has strengthened him.

Julia Grauvogel is a political analyst with the GIGA Institute in Hamburg

Interview: Asumpta Lattus