NEW: Roch Marc Kabore wins Burkina Faso's presidential election
In September a military plot tried to derail free elections, but it was thwarted
Civil society has worked hard to ensure free and fair elections
After nearly three decades of autocratic rule followed by a civil uprising, Burkina Faso has a new leader.
Roch Marc Christian Kabore won more than 53% of votes in Sunday’s elections, according to an official tally. The results mean Kabore, a former Prime Minister of the West African nation, will become its next President.
His closest opponent, Zephirin Diabre, conceded defeat after winning less than 30% of votes.
The road to this week’s vote has been bumpy. Just two months ago, a military plot tried to derail the election. Now experts say this looks to be the most democratic polling in the country’s history.
The people have themselves to thank for that, said Chris Fomunyoh from the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, which is overseeing election observers.
Ever since a citizen uprising overthrew President Blaise Compaore a year ago – after he ruled over the country for 27 years – civil society has done a lot of work to assure the quality of this election.
“They feel a sense of ownership,” said Fomunyoh, who is overseeing some 6,000 election observers, all local citizens who have trained up for the task.
‘Very free, very fair’
They are telling him good things about what they are seeing.
“So far, all the reports that we’ve received point to voting being very free, very fair and very orderly.”
The turnout has been high, Fomunyoh said, a stark contrast to past elections that people felt were fixed. “In the past they didn’t come out to vote, because the incumbent always won,” he said.
This time, things were different.
The elections were conducted by a transitional government that did not run for office itself. It purposely put no incumbent into the race and left the field wide open to other candidates, Fomunyoh said. “People felt that every candidate had a good shot at winning.”
Fourteen candidates ran for President, with Kabore and Diabre seen as the two with the most promising chances.
Recent military plot
Sunday was not the original election date. Just before the original date rolled around in September, military forces loyal to Compaore made a last stand, knocking it off course.
They rounded up the transitional President and Prime Minister and replaced them with one of Compaore’s former generals.
But people took to the streets again, and the military as a whole was unwilling to support the attempted plot.
“For once I am relieved to have witnessed a boring election on the African continent,” Fomunyoh said.
“The people of Burkina Faso deserve a lot of praise and credit for working so hard to protect their elections and democracy.”
Journalist Basidou Kinda and CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.