Early results from Burkina Faso’s elections showed incumbent President Roch Kabore holding a strong lead, as opposition members of the electoral commission boycotted the process following accusations of fraud.
The results declared by the commission, known as CENI, from 37 out of roughly 360 districts nationwide showed Kabore with more than 235,000 votes – more than three times as many as his nearest rival, former Finance Minister Zephirin Diabre.
The election will go to a second round if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of Sunday’s vote.
The CENI on Tuesday resumed announcing results district by district after a more than 24-hour pause caused by opposition objections.
The standoff further complicates an election already troubled by threats of attacks by armed groups amid a worsening conflict that has killed thousands and displaced more than one million people. Because of the unrest, the election was not held across at least one-fifth of the country.
CENI President Newton Ahmed Barry said the opposition’s five representatives on the 15-person commission raised concerns that some districts had not produced manual vote tallies to accompany electronic tallies, as required by law.
He said he thought the matter had been resolved, but that following a news conference on Monday afternoon, at which opposition parties alleged fraud, the five commission members did not show up for work on Tuesday.
Barry said the five had provided no formal reason for their absence and that the remaining CENI members had decided to resume announcing results. He has denied the fraud allegations.
Meanwhile, the pro-Kabore Alliance of Parties in the Presidential Majority (APMP) urged all parties to respect the outcome of the polls.
Speaking to journalists in the capital, Ouagadougou, lawyer Benewende Sankara also asked the candidates to take up any challenges they had with “the appropriate structures” if they should challenge the vote.
When the CENI began releasing the initial results of the poll on Monday, opposition parties said the presidential and parliamentary figures were “studded with fraud” and threatened “not to accept results marred by irregularities”.
The day before the election, the opposition had already said that “massive fraud” was being prepared, filing a legal case against persons unknown.
Specific opposition complaints were the late opening or failure to open of some polling stations, the unprotected transport of ballot boxes, the lack of sufficient material and personnel in charge of the vote, and what they said were arbitrary changes in the mapping of polling stations.
But in his remarks on Tuesday, Sankara responded: “The APMP considers that the flaws and insufficiencies that marred the voting process can in no way reflect any kind of intention to undermine the sincerity of the election.
“The flaws reported are prejudicial to all the competing candidates and political parties and to each in the same way. The reported failings, while regrettable, are not on a scale to have a significant impact on the result of the vote.”
The opposition hopes to split the vote, depriving Kabore of the support needed for an outright victory in the first round. Then, it plans to form a coalition behind the strongest opposition candidate for the second round.
Kabore, who won election in 2015, has said the vote went smoothly. The 63-year-old president campaigned on achievements such as free healthcare for children under the age of five and pledged to do more to address rising insecurity.