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ECOWAS Sends Poll Observers to Monitor Burkina Faso Election

People ride motorcycles past a billboard for presidential candidate Benewende Sankara in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Nov. 28, 2015. The billboard reads, "Vote Benewende Sankara, the insurgents' candidate."

Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, the former president of the transitional government in Guinea-Bissau, will lead the group’s poll observer team tomonitor the presidential election in Burkina Faso, scheduled for Sunday, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said.

Fourteen presidential candidates are on the ballot. The election was postponed following a failed coup in the West African country.

The poll also comes almost a year after angry protesters forced longtime leader Blaise Compaore to flee the country after attempting to change the constitution to allow him to seek a new term.

Officials say the deployment of the ECOWAS’ short-term poll monitoring team is part of the regional bloc’s Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance. The ECOWAS poll observer team has 133 observers, including 13 long-term and 120 short-term observers.

Members deployed

Dr. Remi Ajibewa, the ECOWAS director for political affairs, said members of the group will be deployed throughout the country to monitor all operations before, during and after the elections and present a report on the electoral process.

Ajibewa said the poll team's focus will be insuring the regularity, transparency, fairness and proper conduct of the presidential vote.

"The reason why we are sending observation mission is to give authenticity, because the international community believes whatever ECOWAS says concerning the elections to a considerable extent have always been what the other international observers always agreed. In terms of numbers, we do tend to send the largest number compared to the EU [European Union] compared to the African Union. ... And compared to any other organization," Ajibewa said.

WATCH: Related video on Burkina Faso elections by VOA's Emilie Iob

Burkina Faso Electorate Heads to Polls Sunday
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Critics say ECOWAS poll observer groups often approve elections in the region as free, fair and credible, despite opposition party concerns of voter irregularities and alleged voter rigging. They also argue that reports by the groups appeared to have been written long before the election was even organized, and that they fail to reflect situations on the ground.

Disagrees with reports

Ajibewa disagreed that the poll observer reports are aimed at supporting incumbents. He cited Nigeria’s April election, in which the opposition defeated the ruling party, as an example of the fairness and impartiality that the election monitoring teams demonstrate during polls.

"ECOWAS was even able to tell that the election was free and credible. If you look at our statement, more often than not, we go by what happened at that particular time that we’ve seen it. ... So at no time do we have any preconceived idea or notion that one would win," he said.

Ajibewa added that ECOWAS collaborates with respective electoral commissions in the region that administer elections.

"We do give financial package(s) to member states and also provide technical assistance. In the case of Burkina Faso, we’ve given some financial assistance to the National Electoral Commission. We also send technical advisers to help ensure that the voter list is done in a way that would not cause problems among the political parties," Ajibewa said.

Burkinabe Electoral Commission officials said the electoral body is ready to administer a credible presidential election on Sunday.