Burkina New President Kabore, Vows For 'Better Tomorrow' After Landmark Poll

Roch Marc Christian Kabore waves to supporters at party headquarters in Ouagadougou on December 1, 2015 after winning Burkina Faso's presidential election. By Issouf Sanogo (AFP)

Ouagadougou (AFP) - Burkina Faso's president in waiting Roch Marc Kabore vowed a brighter future for the west African country Tuesday after becoming its first newly-elected leader in three decades.

Kabore won 53.49 percent of ballots in Sunday's poll, winning victory in the first round of a vote to restore stability after a popular revolt toppled longtime leader Blaise Compaore just over a year go.

"We must get to work immediately," 58-year-old Kabore, a former Compaore stalwart who served as his prime minister but broke ranks months before his downfall, told several thousand supporters in the early hours of Tuesday.

"Together we must serve the country," he said, pledging "to open up opportunities for a better tomorrow".

Turnout was over 60 percent, making Kabore's victory the largest in three decades, far outstripping Compaore's re-election results during his long stay in office.

His nearest rival Zephirin Diabre scored 29.65 percent.

Kabore expressed his "warm congratulations" to the transitional government that has run the west African country since Compaore was deposed by an uprising after trying to change the constitution to extend his 27-year rule.

Kabore, an affable strongly-built ex banker and politician, was long an ally of Compaore and even headed the ruling party.

- 'He deserved to win' -

But in his brief time in the opposition he became a driving force in the campaign to oppose Compaore's bid for a third term.

"We have a new president, we hope he succeeds in his mission in the interests of the people who rose up and in the interests of all of Burkina Faso's people," said Harouna Kabore, spokesman for a score of civil society groups behind the October 2014 insurrection.

Even Diabre supporters spoke out in support of the new leader, with waiter Medard Nedie saying "the election was perfect, there were no problems, so he deserved to win.

"Now we're waiting for the work."

In September this year, activists returned to the capital's streets to protest a short-lived putsch by Compaore loyalists in the presidential guard.

That unrest forced the presidential and parliamentary elections to be delayed, but Sunday's vote went off largely without incident, with voters hungry for change standing in long lines to cast their ballot.

The head of the electoral commission, Barthelemy Kere, described the vote as "generally satisfactory" despite "a few anomalies" and said turnout was strong in all of the country's 45 provinces.

- 'Real change' -

Political scientist Salam Kassem dubbed the election "one of the cleanest ever organised in Africa."

"People opted for Roch because they didn't want a brutal break, they wanted a soft exit from the previous regime."

Burkina Faso's 18 million people, most of whom live in grinding poverty, are hoping for a long era of peace and democracy.

Seen as a consensus figure by some and an opportunist by others, Kabore has pledged to build "a new Burkina Faso" by fighting youth unemployment, improving education and modernising the health system.

For over a decade he led the ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) party and was seen as Compaore's likely heir, but fell out with the strongman in 2012 and last year formed his own opposition party.

Michel Kafando, leader of the transitional regime, praised the vote as "the first fully democratic, transparent" election since 1978.

- 'Sighing with relief' -

"We're smiling broadly, we're sighing with relief," said Halidou Ouedraogo, chairman of CODEL, the civil society platform monitoring the election.

"The Burkinabe people rose to the challenge of holding these historic elections in a calmer atmosphere."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the election's "peaceful atmosphere" as well as the "strong participation of women in the electoral process," his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The CDP was barred from fielding a candidate in the presidential poll under a contested law that prevented anybody connected with Compaore's attempts to cling to power from seeking office.

But the well-entrenched party had several representatives standing in the parliamentary election and could score well under the system of proportional representation.

Around 25,000 members of the security force were deployed to keep the peace during the election, reflecting the nervousness in Burkina Faso over the uptick in Islamist attacks in neighbouring Mali.

In recent weeks there have been signs of the violence spilling over the border, with suspected jihadists attacking two police barracks along the frontier in recent weeks and holding up a van carrying money from a gold mine in the north.

Source: Romaric Ollo Hien, Patrick Fort
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