Voters in Burkina Faso are choosing a new president and parliament as the landlocked West African nation hopes to crawl out of a year-long political limbo. Security has been tightened across the country for polling amid threats from extremists groups.
This is the first election since former ruler Blaise Compaore, who ruled Burkina Faso for 27 years, was toppled in an army-engineered coup in October 2014. Caretaker President Michel Kafando is expected step down, as soon as the new president takes over the country ending the year-long transitional period.
Of the 14 presidential candidates, Roch Marc Kabore, former prime minister, and Zephirin Diabre are seen as frontrunners. Both the candidates were once seen as close associates of Compaore but later disassociated themselves. None of the incumbent presidents are contesting the elections raising hopes of a fair democratic process.
Polling stations opened at 6am local time with 25,000 security personnel deployed across Africa's one of the poorest nations. Nearly 17,000 local and international observers have been mobilised to monitor the polling. The turnout is expected to be heavy given the political situation. Five million of the population of 20 million are eligible to cast their votes.
"For the first time in 50 years there is an electoral uncertainty… we don't know the winner in advance. This is a positive point and a fundamental change from the other elections that we had seen earlier," said Abdoulaye Soma, chief of Burkina Faso's society of constitutional law.
Initial results are to be announced on Monday, 30 November. If no candidate secures more than 50% of votes, a run-off will take place in another 15 days.