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24 Nov 2020 | 05:23 AM UTC

Burkina Faso: Increased risk of unrest after opposition allege irregularities in November 22 election /update 2

Opposition groups challenge results from November 22 election amid allegations of irregularities; increased risk of unrest in medium term

security
BFA

Event

A coalition of seven opposition released a joint statement on Monday, November 23, highlighting allegations of irregularities in Burkina Faso's November 22 presidential election. The challenge came as results for the first districts to declare were announced on Monday, with incumbent President Roch Kabore reported to have taken an early lead. However, the opposition bloc called for the announcement of local results by commune whilst claims of irregularities, including the mishandling of voting materials and insecure transport of ballot boxes, are investigated.

Although Sunday's election passed relatively peacefully, long-running security concerns in some areas of the country created significant voting problems. At least 1334 polling stations in the northern Sahel region and eastern areas were unable to open due to security concerns, whilst dozens of others were reportedly forced to close early after voters were threatened by armed groups. The polling problems highlighted the overall security challenges in many rural areas of Burkina Faso, where multiple Islamist groups remain active and have presented a serious challenge to government control of almost a fifth of the country, but opposition groups have heavily criticized the Independent National Electoral Commission (Céni) for the failings.

Continued disputes over the conduct of the election and announced results are likely to increase the risk of unrest across Burkina Faso in the medium term, with a realistic possibility that opposition groups will organize rallies and protests in Ouagadougou and other urban centers.

Context

Incumbent President Roch Kabore was seen as the strong favorite going into Sunday's presidential election as he sought to secure a second five-year term. Despite the security challenges which have plagued his presidency and defined the election debates and policies, the opposition has remained heavily divided, with 13 candidates challenging Kabore for the presidency. Whilst the majority of opposition candidates have suggested negotiations with extremist groups, Kabore has remained steadfastly opposed to talks, a position backed by France which maintains a strong military presence in the country.

Candidates require a 50 percent majority to win the presidency and it is likely that the election will go to a second round if Kabore is unable to secure an outright majority. 

Advice

Those in Burkina Faso are advised to remain apprised of the political situation, avoid all public demonstrations and election-related events as a precaution, avoid discussing politically-sensitive topics in public or on social media, and heed all directives issued by the local authorities. Travelers should exercise increased vigilance following the vote and minimize time spent in the vicinity of polling stations and political party offices, particularly during the announcement of results.

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