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Burkina Faso - Political Parties

In 2007, the World Bank estimated that over 70 percent of Burkina's population was illiterate. Others estimate that this number was even higher -- closer to 90 percent. Due to literacy problems, the electorate is often manipulated, particularly in rural areas, which has led to election fraud. The general population does not even understand the purpose of voting, and those that do vote do not understand the harm of participating in fraud, such as accepting payment for their votes. The problems worsen when cultural norms permit men and local chiefs to dictate their spouses' and villages' votes.

Political parties and labor unions may hold meetings and rallies without government permission, although advance notification and approval are required for public demonstrations that may affect traffic or threaten public order. If a demonstration or rally results in violence, injury, or significant property damage, penalties for the organizers include six months’ to five years’ imprisonment and fines of between 100,000 and two million CFA francs ($172 and $3,436). These penalties may be doubled for conviction of organizing an unauthorized rally or demonstration. Demonstrators may appeal denials or imposed modifications of a proposed march route or schedule before the courts.

By 2009 there were no less than 130 different, active, political parties in Burkina Faso. Political leaders agreed that the numerous parties are a serious impediment to increasing the power and influence of any individual opposition group. Further exacerbating the problem was the fact that much of the "opposition" actually supports the President and his policies although they were not officially aligned with the ruling party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP).

The Alliance for Democracy and Federation/African Democratic Rally (ADF/RDA) was the second largest party in Burkina after the CDP. While the ADF/RDA considered itself to be the major opposition party, it supported the President 99 percent of the time and is included in Compaore's government. Of the 38 opposition members elected to the National Assembly in 2007, 25 were known to be closely aligned with President Compaore and/or the ruling CDP, leaving only 13 true opposition members.

The large number of parties meant that public resources for campaign finance and for establishing party offices throughout the country were potentially very limited. However, in order to qualify for public campaign financing, parties must have earned at least five percent of the votes in the last election. Therefore, only the CDP and ADF/RDA now qualify for public funding. While the National Independent Commission for Elections (CENI) and National Assembly were considering lowering this requirement to three percent, such a change would still only allow five parties to receive funding.

The CDP had a stronghold on all areas of politics within Burkina Faso because it benefited from significant government funding and it benefited from pre-Compaore political infrastructures, making it the only party with active political leadership in each of the country's 45 provinces.

In recent years, several opposition groups had combined their efforts, forming coalitions to prepare for elections. Of these groups, the most promising for the future was the left-leaning Sankarist coalition. This group of parties supported the socialist-era principles of the former Burkinabe President, Thomas Sankara. Among the Sankarist parties, the most prominent was the Union for Rebirth/Sankarists Movement (UNIR/MS) party. Unfortunately, coalition groups in Burkina Faso have historically had a short lifespan, eventually returning to the same fragmented parties that existed before they were merged.

ADF/RDA and UNIR/MS members agreed that opposition parties will need: (1) to greatly alter their strategies for developing coalitions and seeking support from the public; (2) training; and (3) resources they can use to create political bases throughout the country. The government and political opposition groups must work together to improve campaign practices and to allow opposition groups to have access to public funding. The overwhelming influence and resources accessible to the CDP are additional obstacles the opposition must overcome.

Political parties mostly operated freely. Individuals and parties may declare their candidacies and compete in presidential elections, provided the Constitutional Council validates their candidacies. Individuals must be members of a registered political party to run in legislative or municipal elections. CDP membership conferred advantages, particularly for businessmen and traders seeking government contracts.

Members of political parties, including members of the CDP, were allowed to participate in the transitional government, although the charter excluded anyone who participated in the previous government or “openly” supported amending the constitution to remove term limits. On 15 December 2014, however, the political parties CDP and ADF/RDA, along with the political association FEDAP/BC (all groups that had supported the constitutional amendment), were suspended by the Ministry of Territorial Administration, Decentralization, and Security. The suspension was due to “activities incompatible with the laws on freedom of association and charters of political parties.” The transitional government did not specify what triggered the suspension or what the parties must do to lift the suspension.

The April 2015 electoral code approved by the National Transitional Council (CNT) stipulates the exclusion of certain members of the former political majority. The code states that persons who “supported a constitutional change that led to a popular uprising” are ineligible to be candidates in future elections. In addition to exclusion from the 2015 legislative and presidential elections, a number of candidates were also excluded from the municipal elections in May 2016. In April 2016 administrative courts rejected appeals filed by political opponents of the former ruling party against a number of its candidates.

On 02 August 2016 the government directed one third of the country's political parties , ie 42 formations, to comply with the law by 31 August under pain of "suspension" or "dissolution".

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Page last modified: 04-06-2017 19:01:15 ZULU