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?