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Amid Voter Apathy, Burkina Faso Enters Last Week of Presidential Election Campaign

  • Anne Look

President Blaise Compaore (file photo)

President Blaise Compaore (file photo)

Presidential hopefuls in Burkina Faso are entering their last week of campaigning before Sunday's vote.

President Blaise Compaoré is expected to win re-election. He has been in power since a 1987 coup d'état and won the 2005 election with 80 percent of the votes.

Observers say campaigning has been subdued and voter apathy is high.

No surprises

Edouard Ouedraogo, President of the Burkinabe organization The Search for Democracy and Development, says this is because the election holds few surprises.

He says in soccer, when a weak team faces a much stronger one, the game is dull and the stands are empty. He says when equally matched teams play, soccer wins, just as in an equally matched election, democracy can win. In an election like this one, where there is no suspense, he says, people get discouraged and may not even vote.

Challengers

On the international stage, Burkina Faso's poll has largely been eclipsed by this month's more contentious elections in its crisis-stricken neighbors, Guinea and Ivory Coast, both countries where Compaoré has served as regional mediator.

At the polls Sunday, Compaoré faces five opposition candidates and one independent.

Opposition leader, Bénéwendé Sankara, placed second in the 2005 poll with less than five percent of the vote and is the president's key challenger in this race.

Sankara says his political adversaries are the man who has been in power for a quarter of a century and those who think change cannot come so long as President Compaoré is alive. He says change can and should happen. He says our enemy today is poverty, unemployment and the misery of our people.

Complaints

On the campaign trail, Compaoré has responded to criticisms.

Compaoré says many people insist on saying life is expensive, as though life is not expensive everywhere. He says on TV we see there are problems in Paris and that millions of Americans have lost their homes. He says his opponents think that pessimism is best for the people of this country, whereas we want to move forward with optimism.

Compaoré's party is seeking to abolish constitutional term limits for the presidency. The current limit of two five-year terms was put in place in 2002.

Readiness


Burkina Faso's electoral commission says preparations for Sunday's vote are on schedule and it has begun distributing voter cards to the country's approximately 3.2 million registered voters.

The commission's secretary-general, Sadou Sidibe, says watching the electoral problems that their neighbors, Ivory Coast and Guinea have experienced, has served as a reminder that how an election is organized can become a source of problems.

He says the electoral commission plans to begin distributing voting materials to the country's more than 12,000 polling stations on Tuesday.

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