Friday, 27 November 2015

Who and how to choose?

The Burkina government, society, and media seem to be really pushing for a “free and fair” election. However, it is difficult for most of the population really to know who is the best candidate to vote for. Who has the character? Who has the experience? Who has the best policies? Indeed, what are their policies or their political leanings? Those who seem to have a clear message lack the experience for people to trust them. And those who have the experience have a shadow cast over their character by their involvement for so many years in the Compaore regime.
For the vocal students and intelligentsia in Ouaga, with time, language, and access to newspapers and internet, they can look into such important points – although even then, it is not always easy to unravel.
Otherwise, most people rely on the public meetings of the candidates (and radio reporting of such) as they travel around the country, promising economic development, better hospitals, better schools, better roads, investment in agriculture, fighting against corruption, and ensuring security against terrorism and banditry.
Ultimately, those likely to gain the votes are those with the money, name-recognition (because of their experience – for better or worse), and ability to bus crowds in to hear their promises of a golden future.
In spite of fears of disruption and violence, I expect the elections to be “free and fair”. And I think the parties and population will accept the result. There is a widespread desire to show that Burkina can manage its own affairs and to put behind it the years of corruption and abuse of power. The popular uprisings have shown the Burkinabe people today to be politically aware, motivated, and more mature than many other countries. In this respect, the elections will be democratic, and will show the way for other countries. Things in Burkina have come a long way from the western media image of “the most coup-prone” country in Africa.
But sadly, although the choice of candidate will be a free choice, for many people it will largely be an uninformed choice.
I have asked a few people how they will vote. Here are a few responses:
·      “Roch, because he says he will help us with our field and animals and schools”
·      “I don’t really know any of them apart from Roch and, um, what’s his name – Zephirim”
·      “Anyone but Roch – a vote for Roch is a vote for Blaise”
·      “Roch, because he is from our family group”
·      “I don’t know – I will pray on the day and see who I have peace to vote for”
Of course, many people’s reasons for choosing a candidate in the UK or US may not be more sophisticated than this!
Burkina is investing in educating her children, but is starting from the back of the block. And for education to affect the direction of the country, it takes the time it takes a child to grow and become a decision-maker. Investment in the education of Burkina’s children is vital to raise up an informed electorate.
In the end, if polls are to be believed, it seems things will go to a second round, with a run-off between Roch and Zeph, with Sankara holding the balance, which will probably mean Roch getting voted in.
Getting rid of Compaore has finally brought an opportunity for change. The voice of the people will be heard, and the next president will be the people’s choice. But is he really what the people want? Will this truly be a time of change for Burkina? Or will it be more of the same?

Saturday, 21 November 2015

BF Presidential Elections - the other candidates

With 14 candidates for the presidential elections on Nov 29, and the field so dominated by just two candidates, who are the others, and why are they running?

A few are well-known, long-standing opponents of the previous regime who have been campaigning for change and offer an alternative (for better or worse) to business as usual. Others are unknowns, who stand no chance of being elected. It may be that they are trying to make themselves known, positioning themselves as power-brokers in the event of a run-off, or for future political influence. Or, more cynically, it has been suggested some could just be in it for the 25 million cfa (about £30,000) given by the government for each presidential candidate to help them run their campaigns!

Here are some very short sketches of some of the better-known other candidates:

Bénéwendé S. Sankara (UNIR / PS). Sankara is a lawyer who has stood against Compaore’s regime for 15 years, running twice against him in presidential elections. He was third-placed in a recent poll, with 8%. Sankara represents a group of « Sankarist » parties, promoting the values espoused by ex-president Thomas Sankara, killed in a coup d’etat in 1997, (though he is not actually related). Preceived as the « defender of lost causes », he has been a key lawyer in the investigation of both the Norbert Zongo affair and the Thomas Sankara dossier. He claims that he played a key role in the insurrection against Compaore that brought people onto the steets and resulted in Compaore’s downfall.

Saran Sérémé (PDC) is one of two women seeking the presidency, A businesswoman who moved into politics, Sérémé left the CDP in 2012, and moved into opposition. In 2014, she helped organise a women's march ("the revolt of spatulas”) against Compaore’s proposed constitutional amendment., and became the face of the revolt that brought his downfall. She was suggested as a possible president for the transitional government.

Tahirou Barry (PAREN). Another lawyer, another long-standing opponent and thorn in the flesh of ex-president Compaore. Even in his youth, he got himslef arrested after he infiltrated the committee discussing bringing the African Nations Cup to Burkina in 1998, denouncing "the madness of injecting billions into a game when the vast majority of the population languishes in poverty". He  worked as a journalist then lawyer, and also did teaching at the university before being selected as president of the party PAREN

Ram Ouédraogo (RDEBF). Founder of the first Green party of Burkina, Ram was a Compaore minister 1999, then MP, before leaving to create his party in 2005. He ran against Compaore twice in presidential elections, but gained only 2% of the vote in 2005.

Ablassé Ouédraogo (Faso Autrement):  A previous minister of Foreign Affairs in Compaore’s government from 1994-1999, Ouedraogo is a recognised economist. He subsequently worked in various international institutions such as the World Trade Organisation, and then became a mediator in various African crises. His party, Faso Autrement, describes itself as « centrist liberal ». He was heavily criticised for saying that two of the best reasons for him to become president were that he is Mossi and that he is a Muslim. This led to calls to not make the election about race or religion.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

BF Presidential Election - the Front-Runners

 Of the 14 presidential candidates, the two seen as front-runners are Roch (“Le Roc”) Kaboré (MPP) and Zephirin (“Zeph”) Diabré (UPC), each with about 25% of the electorate in a pre-campaign poll. If no one candidate gains a majority of the vote, run-off elections will be held around Dec. 13.
(See Backround to the Elections for some basics on the forthcoming elections on 29 November)

Roch Marc Christian Kaboré.  (MPP)
“Le Roc” was part of ex-president Blaise Campaore’s government for many years, including a stint as Prime Minister. 

In 2014, opposed to Campaore’s bid to change the constitution to gain a third term, he left, together with two other of Campaore’s right-hand men: Salif Diallo and Simon Campaore, to form their MPP party. Their experience in government is seen by some as a plus. However, others consider their links with Campaore’s regime, including rumours of torture and corruption, to be a hindrance, and regard them with suspicion as late-comers to opposition at a time when they perceived the Campaore ship to be already sinking.   

Many think a clearer break with the past is needed. Describing themselves as “social democrats”, they have the support of 17 smaller parties, which may, in the event of a run-off, swing things in their direction.

Zephirin (“Zeph”) Diabré. (UPC)
“Zeph” was also in Campaore’s government, variously as minister of the departments of Commerce, Industry, and Finance before leaving in 1999 to take key roles in UNDP in New York, and then Areva. 

He formed his opposition party in 2010, and has been the leader of the opposition since January 2013.  Thus, although he has been in the previous regime, he is seen as being less tied to the Campaore years than Le Roc, which might work in his favour. Describing his party as “social liberal”, he is more of a free market supporter than Le Roc. 

Although supported by 10 minor parties, in the event of a run-off, some have suggested that Zeph would lose out because many of the other parties have a more socialist leaning and would tend to favour the MPP.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Burkina Faso Presidential Election 2015 - the background

The elections will be held on 29 November - the first elections without an incumbent president running - and thus also the first time there will actually be a change of president through election. 

The presidential elections are for a 5-year term (maximum two terms allowed), and will run concurrently with legistaltive elections. There are 14 presidential candidates. If no one candidate gains a majority of the vote, run-off elections will be held around Dec. 13.

Ex-president, Blaise Campaore, ruled for 27 years, following his overthrow of Thomas Sankara, "Africa's Che"and Sankara's assassination in 1987. Campaore was himself overthrown in a popular uprising at the end of October 2014 after his attempts to change the constitution to allow him to run for another term.

A transitional government, headed by Michel Kafando led the country for the next year, leading the country back towards democratic elections. The original date for the election this year was 11 October 2015, but this was put back following a coup d'etat on 16 September 2015 by Campaore's presidential guard, who took Kafando and prime minister Zida hostage. Once more the Burkina population rose up and, supported by the Burkinabe traditional and religious leaders, media, and army, faced down the heavily armed RSP. The coup was overthrown, and Kafando set the transition back on course for elections on 29 November. 

Several candidates were barred from standing in the presidential elections for having either supported the coup, or the attempt to change the constitution. This included members of ex-president Campaore's party, the CDP.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Hello again.
I am going to try to revive this blog again, in particular over the coming weeks to post about the forthcoming election in Burkina Faso on 29 November.
As you probably know, the elections were originally supposed to happen on the 11 October, but were delayed because of a coup d'etat which was then overthrown.
Of course, I may well post about other things as well as we go along.
Or, I may not find time to do any such thing.
We'll see.