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Burkina Faso holds first local elections in transition

Burkina Faso held local elections Sunday seen as a key step in the country's transition to democracy from the authoritarian rule of ousted strongman Blaise Compaore.

[OUAGADOUGOU] Burkina Faso held local elections Sunday seen as a key step in the country's transition to democracy from the authoritarian rule of ousted strongman Blaise Compaore.

Some 24,000 police and troops were on duty for voting day, which had initially been scheduled for January 31 but was postponed following January 15 jihadist attacks that killed 30 people in Ouagadougou.

Polls closed at 6:00 pm (1800 GMT) after an election which went off without incident and results are expected to be known by the end of the coming week.

Some 5.5 million people were eligible to cast ballots to elect around 20,000 municipal councillors, who will then choose mayors for 368 towns.

More than 80 parties put up candidates.

The elections were the first local polls in the impoverished West African country since president Compaore was overthrown in a popular uprising in October 2014 after ruling the country with an iron fist for 27 years.

The subsequent interim government dissolved all municipal councils set up under Compaore and replaced the mayors with non-elected prefects.

Presidential elections last November were won by Roch Marc Christian Kabore, a leading figure in Compaore's ousting who had held a number of posts under the former president before falling out with him.

Mr Kabore won 53 per cent in November and was hoping his People's Movement for Progress (MPP) would bolster his mandate with their result to see off Mr Compaore's Congress for Democracy and Progress (CPP) as well as Zephirin Diabre, presidential election runner-up, and his Movement for Progress and Change (MPC).

After casting his ballot Sunday, Mr Kabore appealed for a high turnout, describing the vote as "one of the most important links that are missing in the chain," and which will "allow the accomplishment of this mission of grassroots democracy".

Turnout was low in the hours after polls opened at 6:00 am (0600 GMT) compared to the November elections.

"The turnout is not as high as in the presidential vote," said the head of the national election commission (CENI) Barthelemy Kere.

CENI on Saturday announced that voting was postponed in three districts due to "vandalism" against polling stations.

Amado Ilboudo, 56, was the first to vote in the Gueswenbala school, in Ouagadougou's Nagrin district.

"I voted for municipal councillors and the next mayor will repair our roads and fix the recurrent water shortages in our neighbourhood," he said.

Adja Tapsoba, who is also a candidate for municipal councillor in Ouagadougou's Patte d'oie district, said she was voting for "change."

"I don't want things as they were before, that's why I have come to vote," Ms Tapsoba said.

In the second city of Bobo Dioulasso in the country's interior, voting also passed off normally, officials said, though a member of the local electoral commission added that "people just aren't coming out to vote."

Residents of Sahara cities near the Malian and Niger borders, prone to terrorist attacks, told AFP the vote had passed without incident.

Mr Compaore has been living in Ivory Coast since he was overthrown.

Burkinabe authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in December for his alleged role in the mysterious 1987 killing of his comrade, ex-president Thomas Sankara.