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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-11-20

Blaise Compaore (pictured left), the long-time leader of Burkina Faso and West Africa's "mediator-in-chief", is expected to secure a fourth term in office after Sunday's presidential election in the impoverished, land-locked nation.

AFP - Burkina Faso goes to the polls on Sunday with President Blaise Compaore the favourite to win after nearly a quarter of a century at the helm and criticism he plans to extend his grip on power indefinitely.

Compaore, who is running for his fourth term in office, has led the impoverished African nation since 1987 when he staged the country's fifth military coup since independence in 1960.
Supporters say he has brought stability to the land-locked former French colony and established himself as "mediator-in-chief" in other West African nations beset by crises.
The rural country remains one of the poorest in the world with nearly half its 16 million population living in poverty.
But it has shown signs of progress, notably the diversification of its agriculture and livestock-dependent economy with a boom in gold production.
The opposition which boycotted the nation's first two democratic polls in 1991 and 1998, however, remains weak, divided and lacking in a strong, charismatic personality.
It is fielding six candidates including lawyer Benewende Stanislas Sankara who finished in second place in the 2005 ballot with nearly five percent of the vote compared to over 80 percent polled by the president.
Pargui Emile Pare, who scored less than one percent in 2005, will also stand along with first-time candidates including former army commander Boukary Kabore, diplomat and former UN official Hama Arba Diallo, hydrogeologist Ouampoussoga Francois Kabore, and independent Maxime Kabore.
With only 3.2 million people registered to vote, the low voter registration is largely attributed to lack of interest. Voter turnout threatens to plunge even further for Sunday's ballot.
If re-elected, Compaore has pledged to carry out political and institutional reform including the creation of a senate in addition to the national assembly.
But his party has taken it upon itself one highly contentious task.
The Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) said several months ago it wished to abolish the limit on the number of times the president can run for office, fixed in 1991 at two five-year terms.
In this way, he could stand again in 2015 and beyond, after two five-year and two seven-year terms.
But he has taken care not to comment directly on this sensitive subject.
"The reforms announced ... we are going to discuss them again after the elections and see for each of the propositions ... which is of interest for our country," he said recently.
"It's from this that I will be able to tell you what I intend in relation to article 37," he said referring to the constitution's 1991 article on five-year presidential terms.
However, the influential Roman Catholic Church and the opposition have already denounced the plan to amend the law.
Ben Youssouf Minoungou, a member of a group that campaigns against any such amendment to the constitution, said Africa had much "experience of presidencies for life" and the resulting "chaos".
"We must avoid this in Burkina," he added.
The electoral commission said on Friday it expected to declare provisional results by Thursday at the latest.

Date created : 2010-11-20


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