IRIN-WA: Special brief on Burkina Faso presidential elections, 1998.11.13

IRIN-WA: Special brief on Burkina Faso presidential elections, 1998.11.13

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network For West Africa

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[This brief is intended as background information for the humanitarian community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the UN]

IRIN-West Africa: Special brief on presidential elections in Burkina Faso, 1998.11.13

Voters in Burkina Faso will be going to the polls on Sunday, 15 November, to elect a president. The boycott of the polls by the main opposition parties means that the incumbent, Blaise Compaore, is likely to win another easy victory. Compaore will be facing opposition for the first time since coming to power eleven years ago, but his challengers, Ram Ouedrago, leader of the Parti des verts and Frederic Fernand Guirma, leader of the Front du refus-Rassemblement democratique africain (FR-RDA), do not enjoy nationwide support, AFP said. The opposition boycotted the last elections seven years ago.

The Ivorian daily, 'Fraternite Matin', reported on Wednesday that Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, showed few signs of imminent elections. Other sources said a low voter turnout was expected because Compaore's re-election seemed to be a foregone conclusion.

A coalition of nine opposition parties, le Groupe du 14 Fevrier, decided to boycott the 1998 presidential elections, alleging that the national electoral commission was too pro-government and did not enjoy real autonomy. 'Jeune Afrique Economie' quoted Joseph Ki-Zerbo, a leader of the most prominent party in the coalition, the Parti pour la democratie et le progres (PDP), as saying that the boycott was to "wake up, inform, and educate voters on what is at stake".

According to the 'Economist Intelligence Unit' (EIU), the new electoral commission marked an improvement over the old electoral body established in 1990, whose chairman and other key officers were government nominees. No direct government representatives sit on the new commission, which is comprised of six persons from the ruling party, another six from the opposition and 15 from civil society organisations.

Despite improvements made to the mandate of the commission, the Groupe du 14 Fevrier said its main concern was its limited supervisory role in the drawing up of the electoral rolls and issuing of voter cards. It added that the commission would not be sufficiently autonomous of the administration to ensure equitable coverage in the media. The ruling party, the Congres pour la democratie et le progres (CDP), has extensive control of the state apparatus and has had an overwhelming dominance in parliament since 1992, the EIU added.

Political analysts said opposition members know that they would embarrass Compaore more by boycotting the election than by putting up their own candidates. AFP quoted members of the opposition Groupe democratique et patriotique (GDP) as saying that the government had encouraged the two other presidential candidates to run so that Compaore would not have to stand alone.

Social climate

Under pressure from external donors, the government has been moving more forcefully to modernise the public administration in part by introducing more flexibility to civil service employment practices. However, the reform has come up against stiff opposition from the powerful public-sector trade unions representing the interests of more than 40,000 civil servants. The unions have claimed that new, more discretionary promotion procedures would strengthen the CDP's ability to reward civil servants and punish others. The Groupe du 14 Fevrier has also opposed the public administration reform programme.

Presidential candidates

Blaise Compaore, Congres pour la democratie et le progres

Compaore, the incumbent, has steered the country through a turbulent transition to formal multiparty rule, while at the same time shifting from economic nationalism to the rigours of structural adjustment programmes, according to the EIU. It added that he has shown himself to be "an able administrator and wily political in-fighter, capable both of consensual coalition-building and outright political repression, depending on circumstances". His party won 101 seats out of 111 in parliamentary elections in May 1997. Compaore is currently the chairman of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

Compaore came to power on 15 October 1987 following a coup d'etat and assassination of his one-time friend and political ally, Captain Thomas Sankara. The coup was widely condemned by the international community, while the Burkinabe people were shocked by the violence.

Frederic Fernand Guirma, Front du refus-Rassemblement democratique african

A former ambassador and international civil servant, Guirma, has called for constitutional reform to include dissolving the advisory second chamber and establishing a Senate, devolving greater powers to the provinces and ensuring that the civil service dissociate itself from party politics. In an interview with the weekly, 'L'Autre Afrique', Guirma added that he would advocate a review of privatisations undertaken to date because they had led to the creation of monopolies in the hands of a few wealthy members of the ruling party.

Ram Ouedrago, Parti des verts

Ouedrago, a newcomer on the political scene, has advocated sustainable development while protecting the environment in the semi-arid country, where 85 percent of the labour force is employed in agriculture. His party's aim is to combat under-development, poverty and illiteracy. According to Radio France Internationale, Ouedrago lived in Cote d'Ivoire for many years before returning to Burkina Faso some ten years ago.

1991 presidential elections

The opposition boycotted the presidential elections in 1991 alleging lack of transparency in the electoral process. Repeated calls by the opposition from early 1990 for a national conference to draft a new constitution were ignored by the ruling Front Populaire, which went on to organise a new constitution permitting multi-partyism. In 1991, Compaore shed his military uniform in order to comply with the requirement that the president be a civilian. He was elected president on an electoral turnout of only 25 percent.

Abidjan, 13 November 1998.


Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 17:28:16 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-WA: Special brief on Burkina Faso presidential elections, 1998 11. 13

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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