November 30, 2015 / 9:17 AM / 2 years ago

Burkina Faso's Kabore on track for victory in presidential vote

Presidential candidate Roch Marc Kabore (C) arrives to vote during the presidential and legislative election at a polling station in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, November 29, 2015.Joe Penney

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Roch Marc Kabore, a former prime minister, was on course for victory on Monday as results poured in from an election to choose Burkina Faso's first new president in decades.

Provisional results from around 72 percent of the country's communes showed that Kabore had 54 percent of the vote against 29 percent for Zephirin Diabre, a former finance minister, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Fourteen candidates contested the election but it looked possible that Kabore could win an outright majority without the need for a run-off. The commission was expected to announce provisional results for the whole country later on Monday.

Kabore was prime minister and president of the National Assembly under longtime leader Blaise Compaore who was toppled by an uprising in October 2014 after ruling for 27 years.

Diabre was minister of finance in the 1990s in the West African country before he stepped down to go into opposition.

"The people of Burkina Faso have once more shown their profound attachment to democracy by holding a peaceful vote," said Michaelle Jean, secretary general of the International Francophonie organization.

"I invite all the candidates and political parties, but also the Burkinabe population, to respect the results," she said in a statement.

The election represents a pivotal moment for a nation ruled by leaders who came to power in coups for most of its history since independence from France in 1960.

Compaore seized power in a coup, ruled for 27 years and won four elections, all of which were criticized as unfair. He was toppled by protests when he tried to change the constitution to extend his rule even further.

Kabore heads the Movement of People for Progress (MPP), made up of disaffected allies of Compaore who left the party months before he stood down. Diabre leads the Union for Progress and Change (UPC), which was the formal opposition.

A parallel election for the National Assembly also took place on Sunday.

Many people say their priority is for the new president to promote economic growth in the landlocked country, which produces gold and cotton but remains impoverished.

The election was pushed back from Oct. 11 because of an abortive coup in September by members of the elite presidential guard, in which transitional President Michel Kafando and his prime minister were taken hostage.

That coup cost more than $50 million in lost revenue, trimming growth by 0.3 percentage points. The guard has since been disbanded. Kafando will step down once a new leader is sworn in.

Additional reporting by Nadoun Coulibaly; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Andrew Roche

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