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What I SAW: In Tiny Burundi, a Huge Vote

May 17, 2018

NGOZI, Burundi — As many as five million people went to the polls in Burundi on Thursday to vote on a referendum to alter the country’s constitution. I came here as one of the few foreign reporters with a visa and accreditation to cover the scenes at the polls, where voters are deciding on some significant changes.

The biggest change of the new constitution would be the extension of the presidential term, from five years to seven years. Pierre Nkurunziza, who has been president of Burundi since 2005, is widely expected to use the new constitution — if it passes — to run in 2020. Under the new rules, he could stay in power until 2034 — and then run again (and again) after sitting out for just one term.

Most foreign correspondents were denied access, and two weeks ago the government suspended the BBC and Voice of America from broadcasting inside the country.