Monday, November 30, 2015

Burkina Faso Election: Millions Vote in First Poll Since Coup
The vote is believed to be the country’s most democratic ever and comes after months of turmoil following removal of president Blaise Compaore last year

Burkinabe people line up at a polling station to cast their ballots in the general elections in Ouagadougou. Photograph: Wouter Elsen/EPA

Sunday 29 November 2015 19.42 EST

Millions of people have cast their ballots in Burkina Faso’s first presidential and legislative elections since a popular uprising removed the nation’s long-time leader last year.

The vote is considered by some to be the most democratic in the West African nation’s history, because no incumbent is on the ballot paper and the presidential guard has been dissolved.

Security was tight at polling stations, but there were no reports of any unrest.

After the polls closed, the president of the independent national electoral commission (CENI) Barthelemy Kere said the vote had been “generally satisfactory”.

Long queues had formed outside polling stations throughout the day, forcing some to stay open past 1800 GMT, and Kere praised voters’ “patience, tolerance and understanding”.

The first results were expected early on Monday, according to CENI. Presidential candidates need more than 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff.

“It is a victory for the youth that has expressed its will for change and for real democracy,” said transitional president Michel Kafando after casting his vote.

Kafando said it was a victory for the about 17 million citizens of Burkina Faso who have waited decades for a democratic election and called on citizens to avoid violence after results are announced.

“For the first time in 50 years there is an electoral uncertainty ... we don’t know the winner in advance,” said Abdoulaye Soma, the head of the Burkinabe society of constitutional law.

A popular uprising in October 2014 forced Blaise Compaore to resign 27 years as president. A transitional government was put in place, but it did not have the support of Compaore’s elite presidential guard. The presidential guard staged a coup in September that lasted only a week and caused the election, originally scheduled for October, to be postponed. It was the country’s sixth coup since it gained independence from France in 1960.

Burkina Faso’s new electoral code bars presidential candidates who supported Compaore’s bid to change the constitution from taking part, although the ex-president’s party could have a strong showing in the legislative election.

“We must show that civilians can rule the country, and bring it to normality. We have faced a lot of coups and it is enough,” said Roch Marc Christian Kabore, one of the frontrunners.

Abdoulaye Sawadogo, an engineer at a road building company, said he hopes the new leader will address issues of employment, health and education.

Cynthia Ohayon, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, said whoever was elected would have a hard time fulfilling voters’ hopes.

“The expectations are so high – for change, for justice, for the fight against corruption,” Ohayon said.

Some 5.5 million people were registered to vote at more than 17,800 polling stations.

More than 17,000 local and foreign observers monitored the poll, and 25,000 soldiers and police were deployed.

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