Counting votes during Burkina Faso’s 2015 elections, in the presence of election observers and political party monitors.
Photo credit: VOA/E. Iob (public domain)
Freedom House Rating
Presidential and Parliamentary Elections
November 22, 2020
May 2021 (due)
Partial Municipal Elections (in 19 out of 351 communes)
May 28, 2017
May 22, 2016
Presidential and Legislative Elections
November 29, 2015
Burkina Faso is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on November 22, 2020. Voters will elect a president and all 127 members of the unicameral National Assembly for five-year terms. Some of the preparations have been delayed due to COVID-19. Even though the election is currently set to take place on time, delays are possible due to the deteriorating security situation or COVID-19 or a combination thereof.
The 2020 elections are taking place in the context of a growing security crisis as well as political uncertainty as the country’s democrats seek to consolidate the young, fragile democracy.
Burkina Faso’s 2015 presidential and legislative elections – described as the most competitive in the history of the country – followed the collapse of the 27-year rule of Blaise Compaoré. Compaoré and his Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) dominated the country’s politics following a 1987 coup that ousted his former friend and Marxist firebrand Thomas Sankara.
Compaoré subsequently won a series of elections and remained president; however, in 2015, when he sought to change the electoral rules so he could run again in 2015, a large portion of his party abandoned him. Former prime minister Roch Marc Christian Kaboré and nearly 75 MPs broke off from CDP to form the People’s Movement for Progress (MPP), which worked closely with the opposition Union for Progress and Change (UPC) to prevent the constitutional change. Civil society-led protests subsequently forced Compaoré to resign before the end of his term. Although his presidential guard attempted a coup, it failed, and a military and then a transitional civilian government ran the country until the elections one year later.
Nearly 100 political parties participated in the 2015 parliamentary elections and 14 won seats in parliament. The three biggest parties following the election are Kaboré’s MPP, UPC, and Compaoré’s CDP, in that order. Kaboré won the presidency in the first round with 53 percent of the vote, and MPP won 55 of the 127 seats in the National Assembly, falling short of a majority. UPC’s Zéphirin Diabré, who had been campaigning for political change in the country since 2010, took second place and his party won the second-highest number of parliamentary seats (33 seats).
In the 2015 presidential elections, CDP was prevented from fielding a presidential candidate, but managed to come in third in the legislative elections, winning 18 seats. Compaoré himself currently lives in exile in Cote d’Ivoire and faces murder charges in Burkina Faso, but apparently aspires to return home.
The reform process continues. Burkina Faso’s democrats face many challenges, including corruption and the constant threat of terrorism. Politics tend to be based on personality rather than party or ideology. The country is overdue to hold a constitutional referendum on presidential term limits, but the vote has been postponed due to security concerns. Nevertheless, Burkinabé civil society and media maintain a strong commitment to democracy.
Kaboré is running for a second term. He faces a number of challengers. As one would expect, the question of how to combat terrorism is playing a major role in the campaign. Diabré, the 2015 runner-up, is also running again – once again as UPC’s candidate.
Eddie Komboïgo, who was barred from running in 2015, will be the candidate from Compaoré’s CDP. Other former Compaoré associates who will run include former prime minister Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, who left CDP in 2019, and Gilbert Noel Ouedraogo. Tahirou Barry, who served in Kaboré’s first cabinet, has announced his candidacy as well.
Abdoulaye Soma, whom some have likened to France’s Emmanuel Macron, will also seek the presidency. The 40-year-old civil society activist, lawyer, and professor has never run for office before, and his newly-formed Future Sun party has been recruiting other first-time candidates around the country for the legislative elections.
Since 2016, Burkina Faso’s security situation has deteriorated. The country now faces near-daily terrorist attacks from Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, as well as from domestic armed criminal groups, leaving over 1,000 people dead and nearly a million people displaced. Analyst Joe Penney says that Burkina Faso has replaced Mali as the “epicenter of the Sahel’s security crisis.” Six of the country’s 13 regions are in a state of emergency.
Kader Traoré, VOA (July 21, 2020): No postponement of elections in Faso despite insecurity
Eloïse Bertrand, West Africa Insight (January 2020): Polls in Peril: Burkina Faso’s 2020 elections
Clingendael – Netherlands Institute of International Relations (April 2020): Burkina Faso’s rocky road to democratic consolidation
International Crisis Group (January 28, 2020): Burkina Faso: Safeguarding Elections amid Crisis
Monica O’Hearn, Charged Affairs (December 5, 2019): Burkina Faso, Five Years After “Revolution 2.0”
Anna Sylvestre-Treiner and Benjamin Roger, The Africa Report (September 9, 2019): Life after power – Burkina Faso: Blaise Compaoré, homesick blues
Joe Penney, Quartz (November 27, 2019): Burkina Faso has replaced Mali at the epicenter of the Sahel’s security crisis
Nina-Kathrin Wienkoop and Eloïse Bertrand, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (May 16, 2018): Popular Resistance to Authoritarian Consolidation in Burkina Faso
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Updated August 10, 2020