Burkina Faso Begins Counting Ballots in Presidential Vote

  • EU observers say election wasn't marred by any incidents
  • Vote key to restoring investor confidence after 2014 revolt

Burkina Faso voted Sunday in the first election since mass protests last year forced Blaise Compaore to step down as president after ruling Africa’s fourth-biggest gold producer for almost three decades.

About 5 million people were eligible to cast ballots in both presidential and legislative elections. Twelve hours of voting ended about 6 p.m. local time, and officials began counting the ballots Sunday night. Results could be announced in a few days.

Most polling stations opened on time and no incidents were reported, Cecile Kyenge, head of the European Union observer mission, said in an interview. 

The elections will mark the first democratic handover of power in the history of Burkina Faso, where the revolt against Compaore inspired protest movements by citizens from Burundi to the Democratic Republic of Congo who were unhappy with rulers clinging to power. The protests were led mainly by youth and civil society groups.

In a country where three-quarters of the population is under 30 years, many young people voted for the first time. The election “will bring a bit of change to Burkina Faso,” said Jocelyne Rouamba, a 20-year-old voter.

Majority Vote

An interim government appointed after Compaore’s ouster organized the vote, in which 14 candidates vied for the presidency. Members of the former ruling party have been barred from participating. A candidate needs to win a majority to avoid a runoff, which would be held next month.

Sunday’s elections will help restore investors’ confidence as foreign investment slowed down after Compaore’s departure. The International Monetary Fund expects the economy to expand 5 percent this year.

The front-runners are ex-Prime Minister Roch Marc Christian Kabore and Zephirin Diabre, a former regional chief of French nuclear company Areva SA. As many as 99 political parties put forward 7,000 candidates for 127 seats in the legislature.

In September, a coup by members of the former presidential guard, known for its loyalty to Compaore, forced a delay of the vote planned in mid-October. The seven-day military takeover failed amid fresh protests and lack of support from the national army.

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