Burkina Faso: finally a normal election?

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The Burkinabè presidential election which will be held on November 22 is part of the string of ballots for the supreme magistracy that West Africa has housed since October (October 18 for Guinea, October 31 for the Ivory Coast), until December (the 27th for Niger). While in Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, the polls took place in a climate of suspicion around questions about the legality of a third term, the Burkinabè presidential poll poses no problem of “validity”. No question of an unconstitutionally sought mandate here. However, the Burkinabè political landscape is not as clear as it seems.

Political adversaries who know each other

President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré will try to fill for a second term. © Sophie Garcia / Hans Lucas / Hans Lucas via AFP

Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, current head of state, elected in the first round of the previous presidential election, in December 2015, is running against 12 other candidates, including the one who was already his unhappy rival in 2015, Zéphirin Diabré, head of file of the opposition, which chairs the Union for the Progress and the Change (UPC), party created under its aegis in 2010. The outgoing president will also face him the candidate of the Congress for the Democracy and the Progress (CDP) , Eddie Komboïgo, as in 2015. The latter chairs the party of former president Blaise Compaoré, driven from power in favor of a citizen “sweep” in October 2014. Roch Marc Christian Kaboré did not hesitate to brandish its project of an “alliance of progress” and its will to work within this framework to reconcile the Burkinabè. Does this mean that the return match between the three men is replayed? The question is asked.

The pressure of insecurity …

Since January 2016, the date of the attack which hit the Splendid hotel in Ouagadougou very painfully, causing the death of 30 people, the security situation has deteriorated significantly in the country. 1,600 Burkinabè, including 400 soldiers, lost their lives, in the light of the 550 attacks which, since October 2015, have stained the country with blood and have caused the displacement of 800,000 people from their homes, a third being women and children. As a reminder, they were only 70,000 in 2018!

The Burkinabè defense and security forces have paid a heavy price for the jihadist terrorist attacks. © OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT / AFP

Therefore, it is hardly surprising that the outgoing president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré benefits from the action of the armed and security forces – engaged within the framework of the G5-Sahel and alongside the French forces of Operation Barkhane, in particular the Saber Special Forces Task Force – which in March 2020 became Takuba – facing the Armed Terrorist Groups (GAT) which have continued to erode the authority of the State, particularly in the north-east of the country, adjoining the Mali and Niger.

… Does not damage confidence in the defense forces…

However, if we are to believe the results of the poll conducted by the Institute for Research and Polling Apidon (IRSOA), the Burkinabè – for 98.04% of them – have confidence in their security forces to fight The Terrorists. They are, moreover, 60.2% to think that on this point, the situation will improve in 2021 especially as the defense and security budget has doubled since 2013 to reach the amount of $ 312 million (265 million euros). There is nevertheless, far from the cup to the lips, on this thorny file.

In such a context, it is clear both the strong polarization on the political scene and the lack of understanding, not to say the disunity within the opposition to President Kaboré. Is this the chronicle of an announced defeat for it? The question is not trivial.

Kaboré well positioned in the polls …

The analysis of the poll carried out in October 2020 by IRSOA leads to the presumption that the candidate of the Movement for the People and Progress (MPP) is rather well on its way to keep his chair. Roch Marc Christian Kaboré would collect 60.39% of the voting intentions, far ahead of Eddie Komboïgo (13.78%) and Zéphirin Diabré (9.35%). The score is particularly favorable to the outgoing president at the level of under 18/20 years, and in particular the first-time voters this year, given the fact that 40.4% of them have a positive image of the current president.

Eddie Komboïgo is president of the Congress for Democracy and Progress, the party that ruled Burkina Faso with Blaise Compaoré. © AHMED OUOBA / AFP

… at the moment when Diabré’s party is torn apart

Zéphirin Diabré, president of the UPC, appears to be one of the outgoing president’s main opponents in this presidential election of November 22. © Olympia de Maismont / ANADOLU AGENCY / Anadolu Agency via AFP

This comes in a context where the main opposition party, the UPC, has been facing, since the end of September, about twenty resignations of important executives, which testify somewhere to a deep crisis within the main opposition party. Among the hard knocks, the resignation of one of Zéphirin Diabré’s main lieutenants, Nathanaël Ouédraogo. This third deputy mayor of Ouagadougou, president of the Center region and secretary general of the province of Kadiogo wished to justify his resignation, after ten years of faithful and loyal service in the ranks of the UPC, and to proclaim his will not to “lose your soul”.

While the UPC has still not to date nominated all of its candidates for the legislative elections of November 22, it must also reckon with the disastrous consequences of the resignation of Rokia Traoré, secretary in charge of women’s issues at the within the party. She did nothing less than join President Kaboré’s party, the Mouvement pour le Peuple et le Progrès (MPP), which she had previously left for Diabré’s party, the UPC! The “return to the fold” of Rokia Traoré, who was responsible for the mobilization of young girls in the UPC’s Kadiogo provincial office is not only symbolic. It foreshadows a subtle crossover between the two parties, which clearly seems to lean in favor of the presidential camp. Another pitfall for Zéphirin Diabré who is running for the supreme office for the second time.

Beyond these economic factors for the main parties in this presidential election, each of the political leaders must have in mind the important problems which beset the Burkinabè in a context where the absence of the State could benefit the jihadists even more. Among these, there is that of food insecurity that Marc Lowcock, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations in charge of Humanitarian Affairs, speaking at Sciences Po Paris, pointed out explaining that there is an emergency for 13 million people in the sub-region in this regard, 13 million including Burkinabè, Malians and Nigeriens. Enough to make the future tenant of Kosyam Palace aware of the magnitude of the task for the next five years.

* President of the Institute for Prospective and Security in Europe (IPSE)

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