- After 18 years at the helm of Burkina Faso, President Blaise Compaoré has won a new five-year term, garnering a massive 80.3 percent of the vote in the country's first multi-candidate presidential race. Releasing the results of the 13 November poll, the head of the Independent National Election Commission, Moussa Michel Tapsoba, said today that the closest runner-up, Benewende Stanislas Sankara, won 4.94 percent of the vote.
Too divided to run a joint challenge against the 54-year-old former army captain, the remaining 10 contenders scored between 0.31 percent and 2.61 percent each of the vote.
President Compaoré's ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) party spared no effort to secure victory for the Head of State, who seized office in a 1987 coup and later went on to win elections in 1991 and 1998, boycotted by the opposition. Campaign manager Salif Diallo this week estimated the cost of the campaign in the world’s third poorest country at 983 million CFA francs (US$ 1.8 million).
The 1,500 observers present deemed the election fair. "These elections show democracy has taken root in Burkina Faso," African Union AU observer Abou Adam Soule told the UN media 'IRIN'. "During the campaign, speeches were not inflammatory, candidates were able to freely hold rallies, there was no violence or clashes, many women cast their votes on election day," he said.
Of the country's 100-odd political parties, 28 rallied behind President Compaoré. The country's most prominent opposition coalition, Alternance 2005, which consists of 15 parties, failed to agree on fielding fewer than three candidates.
Although there was never much doubt that the opposition would trail far behind the incumbent, 57 percent of Burkina Faso's 3.9 million registered voters turned out for the poll.
In the President's home town of Ziniare not far from the capital, people lined up from dawn to cast their votes last Sunday. "I voted for the one that everyone is voting for," said one old man. Nearby a 19-year-old who runs a bar, Rita Pale Yeri, said she had stamped her thumb-print next to Mr Compaoré's picture because "I want him to remain President."
"He looks after Burkina well," she said. "He has brought peace, freedom. If we get someone new he will want to eat all the money up but the president has finished with that and is interested in fixing the country."
But one observer for the West Africa Forum of Civil Society (FOSCAO) said too few people were registered to vote. "It is hard to understand how less than 40 percent of the population is registered as eligible to vote," said FOSCAO's Secretary-General Richard Konteh. "If the registration had been proper and comprehensive we expected six million, or half the population."
Burkina Faso has the world's highest number of illiterate adults, at 87 percent, according to the UN's development index, and eight percent of the votes cast last Sunday were either spoilt or blank, there being no difference between the two in Burkina Faso. "Compaoré's challenger in this election was the lack of education," Mr Konteh said.
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