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Apathetic voters likely to hand Compaore landslide victory

Text by Jean-Baptiste MAROT

Latest update : 2010-11-21

Incumbent Blaise Compaore, who has led impoverished Burkina Faso since 1987, looks set to win Sunday's presidential election amid low turnout, with less than half the population registered to vote. Poll results are expected no later than Thursday.

Burkina Faso goes to the polls Sunday in a presidential election that incumbent Blaise Compaore – who has mediated recent political crises in Togo, Guinea and Ivory coast – is expected to win convincingly.

Compaore has been the principal mediator in political crises in neighbouring Guinea and Ivory Coast, two countries that have held their own presidential elections in recent weeks.

He came to office in a coup d’état in 1987 and is now seeking a fourth mandate.

Burkina Faso’s revised constitution states that from 2002, the year of the text’s revision, presidents are eligible to serve two consecutive terms of five years provided they were elected through “direct universal suffrage”.

Compaore was re-elected president in successive elections in 1991, 1998 and 2005, without any real opposition.

Dubbed the “enfant terrible of Ziniaré” (the provincial town where Compaore was born), he has every reason to be particularly confident this time. Almost everyone in Burkina Faso’s political circles agrees Compaore has never entered an electoral race in such a comfortable position.

His reputation, once as a strongman, has shifted to that of a man of peace, the wise elder of West Africa, a region that has been buffeted by turbulent political upheavals in recent decades.

It is a long time since he was accused by other countries in West Africa, including Mauritania, Liberia and Ivory Coast, of stoking armed rebellions for his own benefit.

Voter turnout the crucial issue

"The only real issue is voter turnout," says Augustine Loada, director of the Center for Democratic Governance (CGD), a body observing the elections based in the capital, Ouagadougou.

According to the CGD, only 3.3 million of the 7 million eligible to vote have even registered.

On top of that, there have been significant delays in issuing new and better ID cards to the entire population.

But according to Augustin Loada, the ID cards issue is largely irrelevant.

“The low voter turnout expected is also down to the fact that everyone believes the outcome of the election is a foregone conclusion,” he told FRANCE 24.

“Also, there has been increased debate in the run up to the vote about changing the constitutional rule that limits the president to two terms.

“The president has remained evasive on this issue, but many believe that he wants to unlock the system,” he added. In other words, Compaore, who is only 59, is unwilling to pass the baton to any other candidate come 2020.

Also at issue is the extremely slow social and economic progress of a small country that remains one of the poorest in Africa.

“Most ordinary people would not feel the impact of change anyway,” said Loada. “If the country did modernise suddenly, people would realise that not everyone benefits. They would see that the gains go to the top layer of society.”

On Sunday, voter turnout will say much more about Burkina Faso than the actual result.

 

Date created : 2010-11-20

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