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Last Updated: Friday, 11 November 2005, 13:35 GMT
Q&A: Burkina Faso votes
President Blaise Campaore at a campaign meeting
Incumbent Blaise Campaore is expected to be re-elected

Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world, goes to the polls on 13 November to elect a president.

Incumbent Blaise Compaore is standing for a third term and is expected to win despite claims that another term in office would be unconstitutional.

The country's fragmented opposition seems to stand little chance of making an impact at the polls.

What is the political system?

Burkina Faso has a strong presidency, where the prime minister is appointed by the president. The two are in charge of appointing the Council of Ministers.

The president is elected by popular vote and if no candidate wins an absolute majority in the first round, a second round is held between the two candidates with the most votes. The run-off, which must be held two weeks after the first round, is won by a simple majority.

Elections are overseen by the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni). It announces provisional results, after which any candidate has two weeks to dispute the outcome. The final results are declared by the Constitutional Court headed by a presidential appointee.

There are around 12,000 polling stations for Burkina Faso's 7.5m voters. The polls are expected to open between 0600 gmt and 1800 gmt.

Who is Mr Compaore?

There are 12 candidates, but President Blaise Compaore is unlikely to face any serious challenge at the polls. Some of his more prominent critics are not standing.

Born in 1950 and trained as a soldier in Cameroon and Morocco, Mr Compaore came to power through a coup in 1987. The then military ruler Thomas Sankara - under whom Mr Compaore served as minister of state - was deposed and executed. Mr Compaore was elected president in 1991 and re-elected in 1998.

He maintains tight control over the military and top government institutions, and the main pro-presidential party - the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) - is one of the most organized in the country.

Mr Compaore's chances have also been boosted by the decision by 26 opposition parties to back him in 2005.

Is Mr Compaore's candidacy unconstitutional?

The constitution adopted in 1991 allows the president to renew his mandate only once, but amendments in 1997 removed this clause. It was re-introduced in April 2000, also reducing the presidential tenure from seven to five years. The constitution also denies legitimacy to any regime that seizes power via a military takeover.

Mr Compaore's opponents argue that his bid for re-election is illegitimate because the constitution allows only two five-year terms. But the Constitutional Council ruled in October that the restriction which was approved in 2000 did not apply retroactively.

A major opponent of Mr Compaore, Hermann Yameogo, pulled out from the election in protest at the ruling.

Who is running against the president?

One of the most prominent opposition figures remaining in the race is Benewende Stanislas Sankara. He is an MP and a member of the opposition coalition Alternance 2005. Although Mr Sankara is a fixture in the country's civil society movement, few expect him to make an impression.

Other candidates have little nationwide appeal and their chances of mounting a serious challenge to the incumbent president seem slim.

What do opinion polls say?

An August poll by a local NGO, the Centre for Democratic Governance in Burkina Faso, showed Mr Compaore enjoying a wide lead with 61.2% of the vote. Coming a distant second was Benewende Sankara with 5%. In mid-October, a poll by the same group gave Mr Compaore 69%. Again, Sankara was second, this time with 3.7%.

What happened last time?

Mr Compaore won the 1998 presidential election with 87%. But the main opposition parties boycotted the poll, complaining that the electoral system was "opaque" and unfair.

What are the issues?

Economic turmoil: According to the UN, Burkina Faso is the third poorest country in the world. Hundreds of thousands of Burkinabes have fled home from neighbouring war-torn Ivory Coast, putting an additional strain on the government's meagre resources.

Ivorian crisis: Mr Compaore and most opposition leaders are critical of the Ivorian authorities, accusing them of "xenophobic" policies and "war crimes". In turn, Ivory Coast accuses Mr Compaore of backing Ivorian rebels.

Democracy: Critics see Mr Compaore as an authoritarian leader who remains true to his military instincts. But although the opposition continues to speak of "assassinations" and "terrorist plots" against them, the campaign so far has been peaceful. Questions remain over the murders of leading government critics such as journalist Norbert Zongo in 1988 and Clement Oumarou Ouedraogo, a former ally of Mr Compaore, in 1991.

Thomas Sankara's legacy: Many of Mr Compaore's opponents position themselves as defenders of the political legacy of the deposed president Thomas Sankara. One report termed the election as a "duel between Sankaraists and Compaoreists".

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