Voters in Burkina Faso cast their ballot Sunday to elect the first new president in decades in elections that, if successful, would serve as an example of democracy for other countries in Africa, such as Burundi and Congo Republic, where the leaders have amended the constitution in order to prolong their time in power.
Burkina Faso's longtime leader Blaise Campaore was overthrown after 27 years in power a year ago by a popular uprising that saw demonstrators confronted with security forces. The people were outraged because Campaore tried to change the constitution to continue ruling the nation.
Burkina Faso voted today for new President and Parliament— All India Radio News (@airnewsalerts) November 29, 2015
The West African nation has been mostly ruled by leaders that arrived to power through coups since the country gained its independence from France in 1960.
Despite holding elections and winning them on four occasions, Compaore was heavily criticized and the voting was called unfair.
“I’ve never voted before: The elections we had previously, I would call them ‘he-already-won elections,’” said voter Moussa Traore, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Today is historic. For this first time we have an election without an incumbent president on the ballot. It’s open, and more than that, it’s an occasion for us to express ourselves.”
About 5.5 million people are registered to vote for a president and deputies for the National Assembly. Early reports spoke of long lines forming at voting stations in the capital and other major cities.
"I am proud to have accomplished my duty as a citizen ... It's the first time that I can be really sure that we won't end up with Blaise Compaore," said Ousmane Ouedraogo, as he cast his ballot in the capital Ouagadougou.
There are 14 presidential candidates, but Reuters quoted analysts saying only two stand a real chance of being elected.
Both of them are former government officials. Roch Marc Kabore was prime minister and president of the National Assembly under Compaore. And Zephirin Diabre was minister of finance in the 1990’s before stepping down to start an opposition party.
Kabore has strong support from business leaders and from the country's traditional chiefs because he is the member of the largest ethnic group. Diabre depends more on international support because he has international ties from his years at the United Nations Development Programme and at Areva, a French nuclear company.
"We must do everything to show that civilians can ensure the correct government of the country and restore it to democratic normality," Kabore said as he cast his ballot.
After the National Assembly gave Campaore the green light in 2014 to seek a fifth term, the capital was plunged into turmoil, but the protests succeeded in toppling the long-standing ruler who fled to Ivory Coast.
WATCH: People in Burkina Faso celebrate Campaore’s ousting
Since Campaore left, Burkina Faso began a slow turn toward democracy. But in September chaos once again hit the capital when military officers loyal to Campaore staged a coup. However, protesters took to the streets immediately after and forced the coup officers to abort their take over.
WATCH: Rap Music Mobilizes Protesters in Burkina Faso