A presidential campaign starts on Sunday in Burkina Faso, with the winner poised to re-establish democracy after the long rule of former soldier Blaise Compaore in a nation prone to coups.
An attempted coup in September led by Compaore’s onetime presidential guard chief, General Gilbert Diendere, caused authorities to postpone presidential and legislative polls from October 11 until November 29.
The coup was foiled by a popular uprising – much as street protests toppled Compaore himself at the end of October 2014, angry at his bid to change the constitution in order to extend his 27-year rule.
Diendere has been charged by a military court on 11 counts, including a “crime against humanity”, after clashes that claimed 14 lives and left 251 wounded, according to transitional government figures.
In the most controversial decision ahead of the vote, the interim authorities headed by Michel Kafando have ruled that nobody who backed Compaore’s bid to keep power can stand for elected office.
The powerful Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), which long functioned like a state-run party that won every election, is unable to field candidates in the deeply poor west African country, which has a population of nearly 20 million.
The CDP choice, Eddie Constance Konboigo, has been barred from standing and so have all members of Kafando’s interim regime, but Compaore will cast a long shadow over the polls from his exile in Ivory Coast.
Seven of the 14 candidates played important roles in the fallen regime, without backing Compaore to the end.
Roch Marc Christian Kabore and Zephirin Diabre, considered the frontrunners, are both former government ministers.
Kabore worked with Compaore for 26 years, serving as prime minister and then speaker of the National Assembly. He also ran the CDP for more than a decade, but quit the party in disgrace 10 months before Compaore was ousted.
Diabre, an economist, long opted for an international career, but also served at home as minister of the economy and finance. He also joined the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with support from Compaore.