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Voter Apathy High as Burkina Faso Votes in Presidential Poll

A man casts his ballot during Burkina Faso elections at Ouagadougou, 21 Nov. 2010

Voters in Burkina Faso await results from Sunday's presidential poll. Current President Blaise Compaoré is expected to win, and Burkinabé say voter apathy was high.

The electoral commission has not yet released official voter participation numbers, but onlookers at polling stations Sunday said turnout among the country's 3.2 million registered voters appeared low.

Voters in the capital, Ouagadougou, said the election held little suspense.

Voter Marcel Belem says voting is the right of every citizen and he will exercise that right. Make no mistake, he says, there is nothing at stake in this election and the president will win. However, he says this vote does allow the other candidates to test their strength.

At the polls, President Compaoré faced five opposition candidates and one independent. His key challengers are opposition leader, Bénéwendé Sankara, who placed second in the 2005 poll, and first-time candidate, Arba Diallo, deputy mayor of the northeastern town of Dori.

Compaoré has been in power since a 1987 coup and won the last election in 2005 with 80 percent of the votes.

Casting his ballot Sunday, Compaoré called on Burkinabe to participate heavily in this vote because he said it is a moment that allows leaders to assess how they are doing and what the future holds. He said the candidates have proposed their plans for the country and citizens should choose.

Election observers from the Economic Community of West African States are on the ground in Burkina Faso, led by commission president, James Victor Gbeho.

"Even though we do not anticipate any problems in Burkina Faso and even though we know that Burkina Faso has had peaceful elections in the past, all the same we have to be present here together with other international observers to ensure that the right things are done and that whatever comes out of the voting process here will represent the free, fair and transparent verdict of the people of this country," Gbeho said.

Analysts say Compaore has brought stability to the poor, landlocked West African country which has experienced five coups since independence in 1960.

Compaoré's party is seeking to abolish constitutional term limits for the presidency. According to the current limit of two five-year terms that was put in place in 2002, this election would be his last.

Burkina Faso's electoral commission says it will announce results by Thursday at the latest.