OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Roch Marc Kabore was proclaimed the winner of the presidential election in Burkina Faso and will become the country’s first new leader in decades, the Independent National Electoral Commission said on Tuesday.
The election of the former prime minister represents a pivotal moment for the West African nation, which has been ruled by leaders who came to power in coups for most of its history since independence from France in 1960.
Kabore served as prime minister and head of the National Assembly under President Blaise Compaore, who was toppled by an uprising in October 2014 after 27 years in power. Kabore split with Compaore early last year and formed an opposition party.
“My first thought is to recognize the honor of this high office and to feel the weight of its great responsibility,” Kabore said in a speech to thousands of his supporters after being declared winner.
Provisional results from Sunday’s election showed Kabore won 53.5 percent of the vote to defeat former Finance Minister Zephirin Diabre, who scored 29.7 percent, and 12 other candidates, the electoral commission said. Turnout was about 60 percent. The outright majority means there will be no run-off.
“This election went off in calm and serenity, which shows the maturity of the people of Burkina Faso,” Barthelemy Kere, president of the electoral commission, told a news conference.
Crowds celebrated the news in the streets of the capital, Ouagadougou, honking car and motorbike horns.
Compaore seized power by force and won four elections, all of which were disputed. He was toppled by protests when he tried to change the constitution to extend his rule even further.
The vote could serve as an example of democratic transition to other countries in Africa, where veteran rulers in Burundi and Congo Republic changed the constitution this year to pave the way for a fresh term in office.
Kabore heads the Movement of People for Progress (MPP), made up of disaffected former allies of Compaore.
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. Corruption and justice are also important issues.
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 revenue, trimming growth by 0.3 percentage point. The guard has since been disbanded.
Kafando will step down once the results are confirmed by the constitutional court and the new leader is sworn in. A parallel election for the National Assembly also took place on Sunday.
Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Peter Cooney