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Burundi’s 2015 Elections. The Dynamics of External (de)Legitimation in a Context of Mounting Authoritarianism

Africa
Democratisation
Elections
Governance
International Relations
Filip De Maesschalck
Universiteit Antwerpen
Filip De Maesschalck
Universiteit Antwerpen

Abstract

During the 2015 elections in Burundi, the international community has responded in different ways to the domestically contested attitudes and actions of the incumbent (electoral) authoritarian regime. Throughout the pre-electoral, electoral and post-electoral phases, marked by a stark increase in political violence and instability, external responses varied between legitimation and delegitimation. On the one hand, notable shifts in terms of (de)legitimation could be observed in the public statements and actions by the international community and in the justifications hereof. On the other hand, within that international community – comprising international and regional bodies such as the United Nations, the African Union, the East African Community and the European Union, as well as a number of (member) states with a stake in Burundi – clear differences and shifts in position were observed over time. In this paper, the external (de)legitimation dynamics associated with Burundi’s 2015 electoral process will be analysed from the European perspective, centred around the prevention of further authoritarian consolidation. Based on official documents and interviews with officials from the European Union and its member states, light is shed on why and how European actors chose to legitimate or delegitimate the incumbent regime in Burundi, and how that, in turn, influenced the course of recent political events in Burundi. Specific attention is drawn to how European actors perceived and reacted to the influence of Russia and China in Burundi.