Burkina Faso moves ahead with vote despite extremist attacks

KAYA, BURKINA FASO (AP) — A change in Burkina Faso’s electoral code means results from this month’s election will be considered valid even if people can’t vote in parts of the West African country that are overrun by extremist violence.

Candidates like Tegawende Ouedraogo, who ran and lost in 2015, fear the change could cost them the election. The 38-year-old is based in one of the hardest hit areas in the country, Sanmatenga province.

The province accounts for almost 10 per cent of the more than 2,000 fatalities due to violence this year, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project and thousands of people might not be able to vote.

“When a tyre bursts, people run away. There might be rumors of attacks and people will not go to polling stations,” he said.

Burkina Faso will go to the polls on November 22 to vote in presidential and legislative elections marred by ongoing violence. Attacks linked to militants have ravaged the once peaceful nation, forcing more than one million people from their homes and making swaths of land inaccessible.

It now threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the elections.

Burkina Faso’s main political parties voted to change the law in July, making the election valid based on the areas where people can vote, instead of previously requiring ballots to be cast across the country. Candidates whose supporters are mainly in villages unreachable due to violence fear they won’t get the numbers they need to win legislative seats.

The new law signifies the government’s inability to secure the nation said President of the Burkinabe Movement for Human Rights Chrysogone Zougmore, a local advocacy group. “In certain regions, a lot of Burkinabe will be denied their right to vote,” he said.

Communities in the hardest hit regions, in the Sahel, north and the east, already feel marginalised, which could exacerbate tensions, he said.

Supporters of Burkina Faso President Roch Kabore attend a campaign rally in Bobo-Dioulasso. PHOTO: AP