Burkina election analysis: connections to the old regime, assessing the transition and accepting the results
Voters in Burkina Faso head to landmark elections on Sunday in the first polls since the ousting of strongman Blaise Compaore last year. Fourteen candidates are vying to become president and take over from the transitional government. Temporarily delayed by a failed coup in September, it has been a turbulent year for politics in Burkina Faso. So which parties have emerged as the frontrunners and will the results be accepted? RFI spoke to Daniel Eizenga, Sahel Research Group, University of Florida.
Two parties have emerged as frontrunners during the campaigning – the People’s Movement for Progress (MPP) and the Union for Progress and Change (UPC) – what are your thoughts on this?
The two parties have been around since the end of the former Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) regime and they’ve both been campaigning in different ways and to distance themselves from the former regime, but they’re also both connected to that regime. The MPP has done a good job of placing themselves as part of the reason the CDP fell apart since it’s composed of leaders that resigned and brought along a large contingent of people from the CDP that resigned as well to create their own party. Whereas the UPC has said, ‘we were the former opposition under the former regime’, they’re making a point to say that’s in part why the regime fell apart.
This is slightly confusing - members of the former regime are not allowed to stand in the election, but both of these parties are in some way connected to the former regime.
That’s right, at the end of the day the reason that they’re both allowed to run is because they were ahead of the game when it came to distancing themselves from the CDP regime. In 2014, before Blaise Compaore was removed from power, both were part of the movement that led demonstrations against the regime and ultimately forced the former president to resign.
What have the other parties campaigns looked like?
The other parties are doing their best to marshal support and have also in some cases been trying to distance themselves from past connections to the former regime. In other cases where you have political leaders that were not part of the former regime, or even actively worked against the former regime, they’ve been staking their claims to that history. At the same time, those parties all remain fairly small and diverse and are polling on different contingents of the population. Without coming together to form a cohesive coalition behind one single candidate, the 12 other presidential candidates, excluding the candidates for the MPP and UPC, stand little chance of actually winning the elections.
One of the main campaign points seems to be distancing yourself from Blaise Compaore, what are the other main policy points that parties have been discussing?
They’ve been focused on how they intend to change the country, mostly focused on development projects, economic policy. But at the same time there’s very little difference in the different parties and their policy platforms. In reality they all look like very similar packages and I believe they’re trying to gain electoral support by appealing to a country of people that would like to see their country more developed and economically more advanced.
From what you’re saying it seems to suggest that no matter who is elected and forms a new government, that the country might not necessarily change that much.
What I would say as an outside analyst is that regardless of who wins the election it’s very unlikely that the people of the new government will not also be many of the same people that were in the former government. I believe that they’ll continue to follow a lot of the same policies that they employed while in power before.
How would you rate the transition? It’s been almost a year since the uprising that overthrew Compaore, they’ve been working on several different elements and themes over the past year.
I think the transition has been very effective, they’ve been given a fairly short period of time to organise elections, to bring a newly elected government to power. That process has gone fairly smoothly. One of the more controversial things they’ve done is reform the electoral code to exclude many of the politicians who politically supported the modification of the constitution so that Blaise Compaore could run for another term. As a result that created some political tension within the country.
One of the big questions after voting finishes is whether everybody will accept the results. Do you think the results will be accepted?
It’s very difficult to know. I think that will depend quite a bit on what political leaders say and encourage their supporters to do following the elections. In the event that whoever loses the election concedes them publicly and encourages their supporters to accept those results, I think things will remain peaceful throughout the country. At the same time there is some risk that people will not accept the results. That could go either way - Burkina Faso has a long history of protests and demonstrations - and people have been mobilised to the streets rapidly in the past, especially in the recent past. So that’s also another possibility.
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