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Opposition launches legal bid to stop Compaore running for third term

[Burkina Faso] President of Burkina Faso - Blaise Compaore.
President Blaise Compaore, still popular after nearly two decades in power, according to an independent poll (UNDPI)

Throwing down the gauntlet to the Constitutional Council, two Burkina Faso opposition leaders have launched a legal bid to stop President Blaise Compaore running for a third term in elections scheduled for 13 November.

Last Sunday, the Constitutional Council gave a green light to 13 of the 15 applicants to run for president, including Compaore, of the ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP).

The former army captain seized power in 1987 and went on to win two landslide elections in 1991 and 1998 that were boycotted by the main opposition parties.

But this week, two of the 13 successful applicants, lawyer Benewende Stanislas Sankara and parliamentarian Philippe Ouedraogo, appealed to the constitutional court to reverse its ruling and bar the outgoing president from the race.

“He cannot be a candidate as Article 37 states that no citizen who has served two presidential mandates can run again,” said Sankara, who is seen as the main challenger to Compaore and who heads the Union for Renewal/Sankarist Movement (UNIR/LMS) party.

At the heart of the row over Compaore's candidacy is whether a recent amendment to the West African country's constitution should be applied retroactively.

In 1997 parliament voted to allow a head of state to run for office time and time again after changing Article 37, which had set a limit of two terms in office. But in April 2000, the chamber re-established the two-term ceiling and reduced the presidential term from seven years to five.

That, says the opposition, means that Compaore, who has already served two seven-year terms, should not be allowed to bid for a third.

"Compaore's candidacy is improper not only in legal terms... it's improper because after 18 years of his rule Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries on the planet even though there's no war and politically things are stable," Sankara said in August.

The UN Human Development Index ranks Burkina Faso as the third poorest nation in the world, with an estimated 80 percent of its 13 million people living on less than US $2 a day.

But the ruling party argues that Compaore’s term in office must be calculated from the last constitutional amendment, that is from 2000.

"Legally, President Compaore can be a candidate," said Salif Diallo, the director of Compaore's campaign and the current Agriculture Minister. "A constitutional revision brings a new constitution with it and the old formula no longer holds."

But sceptics said there was little hope that the Constitutional Council would accept the appeal.

“They will issue the same ruling as last week,” said Herman Yameogo, who is running for president with Sankara and Ouedraogo on a ticket of 13 opposition parties gathered together in a coalition called Alternative 2005.

A French teacher, Ousseni Ouedraogo, said “the members of the Council were appointed by Blaise Compaore. It’s not in their interest to rule against him.”

The decision is to be handed down next week.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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