Elections and Political Participation
The constitution guarantees all citizens the appointment of representatives of the people through direct, general, equal and free elections. Active and passive voting rights are guaranteed. Political and civil society groups can form freely.
Elections are organized and carried out in Burkina Faso by the Commission électorale nationale indépendante (CENI). The critical journalist Newton Ahmed Barry was elected as the new President of the Independent Electoral Commission on July 25, 2016. He thus succeeds Barthélemy Keré, whose term of office has ended.
As a rule, under the rule of Compaoré until October 2014, the right to freedom of assembly enshrined in the constitution was also respected. However, there have also been repeated attempts to restrict citizens’ right to demonstrate and strike.
The conditions for a successful election campaign have so far been unequal for parties and candidates. While at the time of Compaoré the incumbent president and the ruling party had sufficient funds as well as anchoring in the state administrative apparatus and in the state media, it was almost hopeless for everyone else to position themselves nationwide as a political alternative. Buying, intimidating and fragmenting the opposition as well as manipulating electoral lists were among the strategies of the ruling party. The existence of the opposition largely served as a formal cover page for a democratic state structure.
After the resignation of President Blaise Compaoré on October 31, 2014 and the dissolution of parliament, the dominance of the majority party CDP was broken and a new balance of political forces was created. Opposition parties, civil society, traditional and religious dignitaries and the military had gained in weight and agreed on a one-year transition period, ending with presidential and parliamentary elections in November 2015. The transitional government wanted to enable all civil and political groups to compete in tolerance and was able to achieve this resolutely, despite massive attacks culminating in a military coup by the old presidential guard on September 16, 2015.
The penultimate presidential election took place on November 29, 2015, five years after the November 21, 2010 election, from which Blaise Compaoré emerged as the winner with officially 80.2% of the vote. In the first ballot, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré was elected with 53.49% of the vote. Zéphirin Diabré received 29.65%, followed by Tahirou Barry (3.09%) and Bénéwendé Sankara with 2.77%. This concluded the period of transition after the fall of Blaise Compaoré. In the last presidential election in November 2020, incumbent President Kaboré was confirmed in office with almost 58% of the votes cast.
The unicameral parliament, the Assemblée Nationale, is elected every five years. The last parliamentary elections also took place on November 29, 2015. The MPP emerged as the strongest party and received 55 of 127 seats, followed by the UPC (Union pour le Progrès et le Changement) with 33 seats, the old ruling party CDP with 18 seats and the Sankarist UNIR / PS with five seats. Eight other parties are spread over 16 seats. Paul Kaba Thieba was appointed head of government.
The elections were largely fair. Voters needed biometric ballot papers.
According to internetsailors, there are over 140 political parties in Burkina Faso today. On March 26, 2014 97 parties were officially recognized. In September 2016, 20 political parties and groups among the 145 identified in Burkina Faso at the time were asked by the Office for Public Freedom to clarify their situation within two weeks. Otherwise they are threatened with dissolution. The law states that “a political party or group that does not live up to its own statutes can be requested by the ministry responsible for public freedom to comply with them.”
In the parliament elected on November 29, 2015 (127 seats) are represented:
- Mouvement du peuple pour le progrès (MPP): 55 seats
- Union pour le progrès et le changement (UPC): 33 seats
- Congrès pour la démocratie et le progrès (CDP): 18 seats
- UNIR / PS Parti Sankariste: 5 seats
- ADF / Rassemblement démocratique africain (ADF / RDA): 3 seats
- Nouveau temps pour la democratie (NTD): 3 seats
- Nouvelle alliance du Faso (NAFA): 2 seats
- Parti de la Renaissance Nationale (PAREN): 2 seats
- Le Faso autrement: 1 seat
- Union pour un Burkina nouveau (UBN): 1 seat
- Organization pour la démocratie et le travail (ODT): 1 seat
- Rassemblement pour la democratie et le socialisme (RDS): 1 seat
- Parti des bâtisseurs (PDS Metba): 1 seat
The status of the opposition was regulated by law in April 2000.
The strongest party, the MPP, was re-established in January 2014 by leading CDP politicians who had been at the head of the state apparatus for the previous three decades. It is led by the troika Marc Christian Roch Kaboré, Salif Diallo and Simon Compaoré. Her exit from the CDP in 2014 led to the demise of the former ruling party.
The UCP was founded in 2010 and also emerged from a split from the former majority party under Blaise Compaoré. It had been the leading opposition party since 2012. Its chairman Zéphirin Diabre and many party leaders were previously ministers or members of the CDP.
The UNIR / PS is traditionally a Sankarist opposition party.
The role of traditional rulers
After Thomas Sankara’s government denounced the traditional systems of rule as a feudal social order and significantly reduced their importance by creating the Defense Committees (CDR), they were rehabilitated by his successor without precisely defining their status. Traditional bosses are conservative moral authorities, have sacred and traditional judicial powers and in many places still decide – with stagnating decentralization – the division and allocation of land. They act as opinion leaders in rural areas. To this day there are bloody succession wars over the chiefs, the background of which is presumed to be in the political role of the chiefs. The alliance between the president, who has since been deposed, and the traditional chiefs was understood in the context of “free elections”, since he provided the cattle from the rural areas for cheap gifts.
In political crisis situations, traditional (as well as religious) dignitaries play a role as mediator and guardian of national integrity. During the two-year crisis following the murder of journalist Norbert Zongo in 1998, they were represented in the “Council of Wise Men”. After the resignation of the president on October 31, 2014, which was forced by the people, the Moogho Naba, the Mossi king of Ouagadougou, played an integrating role in the political debate about the transitional government. Traditional chiefs participated in the drafting of the transitional charter.