Burkina Faso votes amid threat of violence

Edward McAllister
·1-min read

Polls have closed in Burkina Faso after a presidential and parliamentary election dominated by the threat of Islamist violence that prevented voting in hundreds of villages.

Polling stations were closed on Sunday across swathes of the north and east where groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State operate. Some that had planned to open were shut because of threats, the electoral commission said.

Before election day, official data indicated that at least 400,000 people - nearly seven per cent of the electorate - were likely to be unable to vote due to polling stations staying shut for fear of violence.

That number could be far higher as many of the one million people displaced by unrest in the West African country have also found themselves unable to cast ballots.

President Roch Kabore is seeking a second five-year term, campaigning on achievements such as free healthcare for children under five and paving some of the dirt roads that snake across the landlocked country of 21 million.

But the surge in jihadist attacks has eclipsed everything: more than 2000 people have died in violence this year alone.

"I call on all Burkinabe to vote, whatever their leaning. It's about the democracy of Burkina Faso, it's about development, it's about peace," Kabore told reporters after voting.

Leading opposition candidates include 2015 runner-up Zephirin Diabre and Eddie Komboigo, who was president for 27 years until a 2014 revolution.

Komboigo joined Diabre in claiming the vote had been marred by fraud. They did not provide evidence for their claims.

Analysts expect a tight race that could go to a second round if no candidate wins more than 50 per cent. Provisional results are expected early in the week.