DAKAR, SENEGAL — Vote counting is underway in Burkina Faso following Sunday's local and legislative elections. These were the country's first polls since anti-government protests last year and are seen as a key test for the ruling party.
Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore highlighted the importance of Sunday's elections as he cast his ballot in the capital, Ouagadougou.
Compaore said parliament and local government are the pillars of democracy and rule of law, and voting on who will enter these posts is key to solidifying democracy and the nation. He said electoral reforms have been put in place to ensure the vote is free, fair and calm.
Pariamentary, municipal elections
More than 3,000 candidates vied for 127 seats in the National Assembly, and more than 18,000 municipal officials were chosen.
Parliamentary elections take place every five years in Burkina Faso, but in a first for the West African nation, Sunday’s vote was held alongside municipal elections.
The election commission also introduced a new biometric voter registration system with the help of international donors.
But many opposition parties say the process still unfairly favors the ruling party. Norbert Tiendrebeogo, who leads the Social Forces Front opposition party, said, "We flatter ourselves when we say that this is a democratic process, but it is a biased process."
In the case of neighboring Mali, he said, it was the same Europeans who had always congratulated Mali who were the first to say that its democracy actually was a facade.
Tiendrebeogo said everyone knows Burkina Faso is a facade of a democracy even if it is well polished. He said efforts must go a little bit further in the fight against corruption.
This election is the first since Burkina Faso was rocked by anti-government protests last year. Students rioted in the streets and soldiers mutinied over unpaid wages. Shortly afterward, policemen and teachers joined the protests, demanding better pay and working conditions.
Ruling party vs. opposition
Compaore, who has been in power since 1987, was able to quell the protests by reorganizing his government, arresting protest leaders, and dismissing several hundred soldiers.
The results of Sunday's vote will determine whether the ruling party keeps its majority in parliament.
Compaore's political opponents, such as Tiendrebeogo, say the polls are an opportunity for the opposition to gain momentum heading into the presidential elections scheduled for 2015.
He said the opposition does not have the financial means, but it has the human resources. He said even though they do not have vehicles, the people came out because they are aware of the need to change Burkina Faso.
Official election results are expected to be announced Thursday.