Tag Archives: Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso – Analysis of local election results

Burkina Faso held local elections on May 22 for more than 19,000 councilor positions. The councilors subsequently choose the mayors for 386 towns.  Preliminary results to be confirmed by the highest administrative court (Conseil d’Etat) indicate that the ruling party MPP (Mouvement du Peuple pour le Progrès) may win control of as many as 75 percent of the mayor’s offices across the country.

The elections marked the end of the transition following the ouster of former President Blaise Compaoré in a popular uprising in October 2014, with new institutions now in place at all administrative levels. A total of 85 political parties and groupings fielded candidates. The elections were peaceful overall, but had to be postponed in three districts due to acts of vandalism and tensions. According to the independent election commission (CENI), voter turn-out among the 5.5 million registered voters was 48 percent; this is well below the 60 percent turnout for the November 2015 presidential and legislative polls and significantly lower than the 75 percent turnout for the last local elections in 2012.

A total of 43 political parties and groupings won representation, some securing seats only in a single commune.  The winner by far was the ruling MPP of President Roch Marc Kaboré (59 percent of seats), followed by the UPC (Union pour le Progrès et le Changement) of Zephirin Diabré (16 percent) and the CDP (Congrès pour la Démocratie et le Progrès), the former ruling party under Compaoré (11 percent). The top 10 are [with scores in brackets reflecting results in the 2012 local polls]:

  • MPP – 11,217 seats [did not exist in 2012]
  • UPC – 3,091 seats [up from 1,615]
  • CDP – 2,144 seats [down from 12,340]
  • NTD – 605 seats [did not exist in 2012]
  • NAFA – 454 seats [did not exist in 2012]
  • ADF/RDA – 317 seats [down from 1,746]
  • UNIR/PS – 290 seats [down from 396]
  • PDS/METBA – 282 seats [down from 506]
  • RDS – 163 seats [up from 109]
  • PAREN – 126 seats [up from 27]

The order of the top three political parties mirrors the order in which parties won seats in the November 2015 legislative polls. Among the top five scoring parties, three (names bolded in black) did not exist in 2012, illustrating that the reconfiguration of the political scene following the ouster of Compaoré is also reflected at the local level. The NTD is allied with the ruling MPP, while the NAFA is part of the opposition, with many members formerly belonging to the CDP or the ADF/RDA. The NAFA’s leader, Djibrill Bassolé, is currently under arrest, under suspicion of having supported a coup attempt against the transition government. The big losers in these local elections, compared to 2012, were not surprisingly the former ruling CDP as well as the ADF/RDA which stood with Compaoré in his bid to remove presidential term limits from the constitution.

Mayors in Burkina Faso are indirectly elected, by the councilors. In 253 out of the 363 communes for which results have been published, the MPP reportedly has enough seats to directly elect its candidate for mayor. Adding 25 communes more where the MPP can count on support from councilors from allied parties such as the NTD and UNIR/PS, the presidential majority should be able to control 278 (or 75 percent) of the mayor’s offices in the country according to Salif Diallo, interim MPP chairman. Only two out of 13 provincial capitals, Ziniaré (birthplace of Blaise Compaoré) and Dori (hometown of now defunct party leader Arba Diallo of the PDS/METBA) went to other parties, the CDP and PDS/METBA respectively. The position as city mayor of the capital Ouagadougou is likely to go to Armand Béouindé of the MPP, with the support of councilors from allied parties, while the UPC in alliance with the CDP could win control of four arrondissements (boroughs) of Ouagadougou.

With the electoral cycle now complete, Burkina Faso’s newly elected representatives at all levels face the challenge of delivering on the significant expectations of improved governance raised by the success of the 2014 popular uprising. The MPP, with the likely control of 75 percent of local governments, will be under particularly close scrutiny as to its ability to deliver on those expectations.

#Burkinavote – Analysis of presidential and legislative election results

Burkina Faso has a president-elect, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré and a newly elected legislature. Kaboré won in Burkina Faso’s first democratic presidential poll in 37 years held on November 29, 2015, with 53.5 percent of the votes in the first round. Fourteen presidential candidates vied for the support of 5.5 million Burkinabe voters. In legislative elections held on the same day, 3,529 candidates representing 81 parties and 18 political groupings ran for the 127 legislative seats.

Results of the presidential election were made public in the early morning hours of December 1. The runner-up, Zéphirin Diabré who secured 29.7 percent of the vote, conceded defeat via twitter even before the election commission had time to announce the results. Voter turn-out was 60 percent. The official results were validated by an independent parallel vote tabulation exercise conducted by a civil society election monitoring coalition, CODEL.

These peaceful, well organized polls were a major feat for a country emerging from a 13-month transition following the ousting of former President Blaise Compaoré in a popular uprising last year, and after an attempted coup by Compaoré supporters just six weeks ago. “For once I am relieved to have witnessed a boring election on the African continent,” said Dr. Chris Fomunyoh, Senior Associate for Africa at NDI – a sentiment echoed by many observers of elections on the continent.

So who is Roch Marc Christian Kaboré? He is certainly a seasoned politician, having served in a number of positions under Compaoré, whose government he first joined as minister of transports in 1989. Kaboré was prime minister from 1994 to 1996, chairman of the national assembly from 2002 to 2012, and president of the ruling party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), from 2003 to 2012.

By some accounts, he was Compaoré’s anointed successor, until relations soured as Compaoré’s brother François gradually took control of the CDP. The situation came to a head in January 2014, when Kaboré and two other CDP heavyweights – former mayor of Ouagadougou Simon Compaoré, and former presidential advisor Salif Diallo – left the party to form the People’s Movement for Progress (MPP). The impetus for the break-up were the maneuverings by Compaoré and his supporters aimed at removing constitutional term limits and allowing Compaoré to run again in this year’s election, after 27 years in power. See earlier post on the coalescing of forces opposing another term for Compaoré here.

His solid CDP-roots notwithstanding, Kaboré has promised “a complete break with the old system.” He certainly faces great expectations and was quick to reiterate campaign promises of reviving the economy and improving access to public services, in an interview hours after being designated the winner.

Kabore’s knock-out in the first round did not translate into a legislative majority for his party, the MPP, however. Preliminary legislative results published by the election commission on December 2 give the MPP only a relative majority in the newly elected 127-seat national assembly:

Party Seats
MPP 55
UPC 33
CDP 18
UNIR/PS 5
ADF/RDA 3
Smaller parties Remaining 13 seats

In Burkina Faso’s semi-presidential system with its dual executive, this means Kaboré will have to collaborate with other parties in the legislature to select a prime minister, notably the Union for Progress and Change (UPC) of Zéphirin Diabré. This need for coalition building promises a welcome change from the past. Among the priorities of the new government will be the delicate task of facilitating an inclusive constitutional reform process, a piece of unfinished business left over by the the transition government.

Francophone Africa – Important election year ahead

Francophone Africa will see six presidential elections take place this year, many of which in countries emerging from crisis and violence. Legislative and local polls are scheduled in five and six countries, respectively. 2015 will thus be a bellwether of democratic development trends in Central and West Africa over the next several years. Will democratic gains be consolidated in countries such as Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea, which last time saw significant election-related violence in contested presidential polls? Will presidential and legislative races in the Central African Republic (CAR) finally bring peace and stability following the March 2013 coup? Will Burkina see a complete renewal of its political leadership through upcoming national and local polls, following the ouster of Blaise Compaoré in a popular uprising in October 2014? How will debates around presidential term limits evolve in Togo and Burundi (and the two Congos scheduled to have presidential polls next year)?

Table 1: 2015 elections in Francophone Africa

Country Presidential Legislative Local polls
Benin April (TBC) March (TBC)
Burkina Faso October October TBD
Burundi June May May
CAR July (TBC) TBD
Chad TBD
Cote d’Ivoire October
DRC TBD
Guinea Conakry June (TBC) TBD
Mali TBD
Togo March

As indicated in Table 1 above, the Togolese will be the first to kick off the Francophone presidential contests, in March – preceded by their Anglophone brethren in Zambia (January) and Nigeria (February). Faure Gnassingbé will stand for a third term, as presidential term limits were eliminated already in 2002 under his father’s rule. Without the reintroduction of term limits, which opposition parties are clamoring for, Faure – who is only 48 years old – could well top or even surpass his father’s 38 year rule. The opposition may feel validated by the findings of a recent Afrobarometer polling of Togolese across the country. The survey found that even among the president’s supporters, 78% of those interviewed are in favor of presidential term limits.

In Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza will similarly stand for a third term using a technicality – that he wasn’t directly elected the first time – to justify his candidature. The fragile peace in the country could be threatened by shrinking political space and the apparent collapse of the powersharing agreement enshrined in the 2000 Arusha Peace Accords, following opposition by Tutsi-led Uprona to Nkurunziza’s third bid for the presidency. According to Afrobarometer (Figure 2), a slight majority (51%) of Burundians agree with the opposition on the desirability of term limits.

In Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire, presidents who came to power five years ago in highly contested polls marred by violence, particularly in Cote d’Ivoire, will stand for a second term – Alpha Condé in Guinea and Alassane Ouattara in Cote d’Ivoire. In highly polarized political environments, characterized by deep mistrust between supporters of the incumbents and their leading rivals, the independent election commissions have a huge responsibility for the organization of well administered polls that can build confidence in the credibility of the electoral outcome. In both countries, continued dialogue between government and opposition can help build consensus around the electoral calendar and abate tensions.

In CAR, hope is high that the upcoming presidential poll can help bring stability to the country. However, there is concern among some Central African civic and political leaders that the transition process is overly driven by the international community, which is pressuring for a compressed election calendar – with presidential polls to take place in the middle of the rainy season, in July. Greater ownership of the transition and electoral process by the Central Africans will be important for ensuring the legitimacy of the newly elected leaders of the country.

In Burkina Faso, interim president Michel Kafando has recently announced coupled legislative and first round presidential polls in October, with the presidential run-off to take place in November, if there is one. These will be the most competitive elections in nearly three decades. Some Burkinabe are worried, however, that the military maintains undue influence over the process, following the nomination of Lt. Col. Isaac Zida as prime minister. Zida was second in command of the presidential guard and appointed as transition leader by the military in the days following Compaoré’s ouster, though he was forced to rapidly relinquish power to a civilian by significant domestic and international pressure.  The transition roadmap is unclear on the relative distribution of authority and responsibilities between president and prime minister and some civil society activists are quite cozy with the military. So it will be important for independent-minded civil society groups to maintain an active monitoring of the transition process, and for political parties to remain united in their effort to push for transparent, credible polls.

All in all, 2015 promises to be an interesting election year. The stakes are high for the individual countries discussed here, and their election outcomes will influence the prospects for strengthening democratic institutions and practices across the continent.

Burkina Faso – President Compaoré swept away by people power, what next?

Blaise Compaoré announced on Friday, October 31, that he was stepping down “to preserve democratic gains and social peace.” In a rare demonstration of people power in Sub-Saharan Africa, Compaoré was forced out by massive, sustained demonstrations over the past week, with hundreds of thousands of people protesting his move to remain in power by amending the constitution.

The demonstrations culminated on Thursday, Oct. 30, the day the National Assembly was expected to change constitutional term-limits, Compaoré having secured the allegiance of enough parliamentarians for the vote to pass. The amendment would have allowed Compaoré to stand for office again in 2015, after 27 years in power. Instead, the National Assembly, having lost all legitimacy in the eyes of the population, was burned down.

Activists from “Balai citoyen” (“citizen broom,” a reference to sweeping away corruption) – an organization led by two singers and inspired by the Senegalese youth movement “Y’en a marre” – were among those leading the demonstrators.  The vast majority of those in the streets were youth – and a recurring complaint that in their lifetime they have never known any other president than Blaise.

In a last-ditch effort to maintain control of the situation, Compaoré withdrew the proposed constitutional amendment, dissolved the government and declared a state of emergency, Thursday afternoon. Too little, too late. By midday on Friday he was gone. Who has taken over in his place?

Who will guide the transition? Reflecting the suddenness of this unexpected outcome, top military brass and civilian leadership from opposition parties and civil society groups scrambled on Friday to present a common front and a coherent message. For most of the day, the country appeared rudderless, as looting of homes, hotels, banks and stores belonging to members of Compaoré’s family, the ruling CDP and allied parties intensified across the country.

First the army chief of staff, General Honoré Traoré declared himself head of state and president of the transition. Then the second in command of the presidential guard, Lt. Colonel Isaac Zida, said he was the one in charge. Zida had earlier in the day served as spokesperson for the armed forces, informing the population of Compaoré’s departure, but he apparently saw another role for himself.

The confusion was lifted, at least from the army’s perspective, Saturday morning, as the joint chiefs of staff and other officers of the armed forces declared Zida their unanimous choice as leader of the transition. Opposition party and civil society leaders do not, however, see it that way, and demand that a civilian be charged with leading the transition.

While the opposition is unified in resisting recuperation by the armed forces of the popular uprising, which by some accounts has cost 30 people their lives, there seems to be a lack of consensus as to who should then preside over the transition. Ouagadougou lived through another chaotic day on Sunday, as two separate presidential candidates – retired General Lougué and opposition party leader Saran Sérémé –  were brought to the national radio and TV-station to declare themselves president. None of them with the coordinated blessing of opposition political parties that seemed to have lost control of the situation. As demonstrators amassed outside the TV-station and the situation appeared to be spinning out of control, the army dispersed the crowd and blocked access to the Nation’s Square – rebaptized Revolutionary Square by the demonstrators. A demonstrator was killed.

Finally, Sunday afternoon Zida began to engage in direct dialogue with representatives  from the coordination of opposition political parties and civil society groups, diplomatic representatives, including the ambassadors of France, the EU and the US, and former president Jean Baptiste Ouedraogo. Talks are to continue next with representatives of religious and traditional authorities as well as unions and other civil society components.

The coming days will be crucial for determining the further course the transition will take. Already, Burkina is celebrated on twitter (#Burkina, #lwili) as an example by civic and political activists in other countries on the continent where incumbents are considering tinkering with constitutional term limits (the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville and Rwanda). All the more reason for Burkinabe democrats, regional bodies (the AU and ECOWAS) and international partners (the UN, France, the EU and the US) to maintain pressure on the military leadership of the country to do the right thing.

Burkina Faso – Mounting Opposition to Another Term for President Blaise Compaoré

President Blaise Compaoré’s pillars of support are quickly eroding, as the 2015 presidential election approaches. In early January, 75 members of the ruling party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), abandoned the party, including three political heavyweights – former chair of the National Assembly Roch March Kaboré, former mayor of Ouagadougou Simon Compaoré, and former presidential advisor Salif Diallo. The three had been sidelined as Blaise’s brother François gradually took over control of the CDP, over the past two years. Their example was followed by 14 more desertions last week, including the high profile stepping down of CDP-member of parliament Victor Tiendrebeogo – a leading traditional chief and representative of the Moro Naaba, the king of the Mossi (Blaise himself is a Mossi).

The reasons put forward by those who have resigned include complaints about lack of internal democracy within the party, and the apparent intention of the sitting president to run again – after nearly 27 years in power. The current constitution, last amended in January 2002, includes a two-term presidential term-limit (Article 37). Blaise Compaoré was elected for the second time under that constitution in December 2010 and should therefore not be eligible to stand again. However, the CDP has been pushing for a revision of this article of the constitution, and the president himself has not excluded the possibility of asking the ‘sovereign people’ of Burkina Faso for their opinion on the matter, through a referendum.

A related matter is the seating of the recently created Senate. Political opposition parties have long argued that this institution is another convenient tool for pushing through a constitutional amendment eliminating presidential term-limits. Opposition parties have cleverly crafted their criticism of the Senate in terms of budgetary concerns, striking a chord with many Burkinabe citizens who suffer under “la vie chère” (the high cost of living).

Joining forces with other opposition leaders, the ex-CDP barons organized the country’s biggest demonstration in decades, on Saturday, January 18, taking place simultaneously in the capital, Ouagadougou, and the country’s second largest city, Bobo Dioulasso. Opposition party activists were joined in the streets by civil society members belonging to organizations such as “Balai citoyen” (“the citizen broom,” a reference to sweeping away corruption) – a citizen movement led by two singers and inspired by the Senegalese youth movement “Y’en a marre.” The protests remained peaceful, as marchers chanted slogans against the Senate and against revising Article 37 of the constitution.

The next presidential poll in Burkina Faso is still 22 months away. Tentatively scheduled for November 2015, the election is already starting to feel like a race, however, with opposition to President Blaise Compaoré steadily gathering steam. The loss of support by the traditional chiefs and by respected CDP leaders is a heavy blow to Compaoré. Against what appears as mounting popular opposition to his staying on for another term, he may choose to nurture his statesman’s image earned through his role as mediator in regional crises. Compaoré may also remember how quickly things got out of hand only three years ago, when popular protests against rising prices combined with a military mutiny spreading to barracks all across the country to severely threaten his rule. He may have more to win by stepping down, than by insisting on another term. After all, the legislature already passed an amnesty law in 2012, granting Compaoré and all other presidents of Burkina Faso since independence from France in 1960 immunity from prosecution.