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Campaigning Begins in Burkina Presidential Poll

Campaigning for Burkina Faso's presidential election, set for next month, has begun, with election officials calling upon all those running to respect the eventual result. But some candidates say much remains to be done to ensure a fair race.

The official campaign period for the presidency of Burkina Faso opened Saturday. The election is scheduled for November 13.

A dozen candidates, including incumbent, long-time President Blaise Compaore, will be competing.

On the eve of the campaign start, election officials in the capital, Ouagadougou, were calling for a clean race.

Arsene Kabore is the director of communications for the national elections commission.

"What we want is that all the candidates, plus all the people who are helping their candidates, and also the voters, to make a kind of peaceful campaign," said Arsene Kabore. "We want the candidates to accept the results of this election."

The election commission's president, Moussa Michel Tapsoba, likened the election to a soccer match.

He said, "though the players on the field may respect the rules of the game, they must also turn to their supporters to ensure they, too, live by the principle of fair play."

But some of those running against President Compaore say they face an uphill battle.

Five candidates had attempted to block Mr. Compaore from running. They say the constitution, which limits the president to two terms in office, prohibits his candidacy.

Mr. Compaore originally seized power in a coup in 1987. He won landslide victories in 1991 and 1998 in polls boycotted by the opposition.

Mr. Compaore, the heavy favorite, has been praised by international economists for bringing improvement to cotton dependent Burkina Faso. He has also had to refute repeated accusations of creating instability in the region by supporting rebel groups.

The constitution was changed in 2000, and a court ruled earlier this week that the new, two-term limit could not be applied to the incumbent.

Opposition leader Norbert Tiendrebeogo, one of the candidates who filed the case against the president, says much needs to be done to level the playing field.

He says, just days before campaigning was set to begin, candidates running against Mr. Compaore had yet to receive the government campaign funding to which, he says, they have a right.

Election commission officials say more than four million Burkinabes are eligible to vote in next month's poll.