What happened in Burkina Faso's 2020 General Election
Elections Africa Forecast Retrospective

What happened in Burkina Faso's 2020 General Election

Clay Graubard
Andrew Eaddy
Clay Graubard, Andrew Eaddy
On November 22nd, 2020, the people of Burkina Faso voted for their next president and members of their National Assembly. Here's everything you need to know in 3 minutes or less.

The election

Based on the government's provisional results, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso was re-elected and his ruling collation in the National Assembly (the Burkinabe Parliament) remained in power. At the same time, voter turnout shrunk significantly amid growing violence.

President

President Kabore's victory was decisive in the November 22nd election, securing 57.87% of the vote and winning the election outright.

By winning over 50% of the vote in the first round (which he also did in 2015), Kabore avoided a direct challenge against a united opposition. (Burkina Faso uses a "top-two system" system of voting, meaning if no candidate wins 50% of the vote in the first round, the top-two advance to a second round face-off.)

2020 Presidential Results (Provisional, Top 3)
Candidate Votes (Valid) Vote Share
Roch Kabore 1,654,982 57.87%
Eddie Komboigo 442,742 15.48%
Zéphirin Diabré 356,388 12.46%
2015 Presidential Results (Top 3)
Candidate Votes (Valid) Vote Share
Roch Kabore 1,668,169 53.49%
Zéphirin Diabré 924,811 29.65%
Tahirou Barry 96,457 3.09%

Kabore's performance was at least somewhat expected. Pre-election polling had Kabore and his party, The People's Movement for Progress (MPP), well ahead of the opposition.

At Global Guessing, we gave Kabore an 85.50% chance of winning in the first round  98.79% overall), making him "clearly favored to win". Based on the provisional results, we'd rate Kabore's first round as strong (a likelihood of occuring we perhaps slightly discounted).

National Assembly

Kabore's party–The People's Movement for Progress (MPP)–failed to win a majority in the National Assembly. They did, however, hold onto their parliamentary plurality–winning 44.09% of seats (vs 43.21% in 2015) with 34.29% of the vote (vs 34.71% in 2015).

The more significant development found in the Parliamentary results is the dissolution of the Burkinabe political opposition. In 2015, the UPC (the largest opposition party) held nearly 26% of seats in Parliament. After this year's election they will hold 9.45% of seats, seemingly bleeding support to the NTD and a series of new, small parties.

Turnout

The displacement of over a million Burkinabe citizens likely contributed to the significantly lower turnout in the 2020 election. With nearly a million* more registered voters than 2015, there were 299,822** fewer votes in 2020 election based on preliminary results.

Year Registerd Voters Votes (Valid) Turnout Notes
2015 5,517,015.00 3,159,650.00 57.27%
2020 6,467,091.00* 2,859,828.00** 44.22%* * # of registered voters was taken
from government's website
(11/24 @ 11:30pm ET). However,
Wikipedia (and some media outlets)
reference 5,893,406, and thus higher
turnout (50.79%). We were unable to
find the number of registered voters on
the government website as of 11:55pm
at 11/29. Until we can, we will stick to
the numbers we can verify.

** Projected numbers of votes taken
from government website on 11/29.

Despite lower voter turnout, Kabore received 13,187 more votes than he did in 2015, while growing his vote share by roughly 4.5 points and his vote lead by nearly 20 points.

What was at stake

  • According to the United Nations, there are over five million Burkinabe children out of school this year. The rise in school closures is largely due to the coronavirus pandemic, but even as some health restrictions have been lifted the country's rampant violence has kept schools closed.
  • Burkina Faso's violence has had other effects as well. Over one million Burkinabe people have been displaced as a result of ISIS and Al-Qaeda activity in the Sahel region of Africa. Terrorism in the West-African nation has spiked since 2015, and neither the Burkinabe government nor assistance from France has helped.
  • Additionally, an American citizen was killed by soldiers in Ouagadougou, 24 hours before polls opened in Burkina Faso. Kabore’s response will be important for the nation’s working diplomatic relationship with France and the United States.
  • Finally, China has pulled Burkina Faso further into their orbit in recent years with the Belt and Road Initiative. In comparison to France, China’s emphasis on economic development is viewed favorably by Burkinabe politicians. The next regime will be tasked with building on their bi-lateral relationship to address the country's endemic poverty.

Initial judgement of our prediction

As mentioned earlier, we likely understated Kabore's likelihood of  a first-round victory by ~5 points (which would've impacted his overall odds by less than 0.5 points). However, despite this issue (and others, including a post-election twitter thread featuring a poor prediction for turnout and inaccurate poll-adjusted data!), we feel highly confident that we made a relatively well-reasoned, well-calibrated prediction in our initial Burkina Faso election prediction.

The strength of our prediction was in part due to breaking down the problem into smaller, more manageable pieces, as well as our reluctance to differ from our base assumption (that due to past performance and polling, Kabore was the clear favorite) unless highly certain of a factor's impact.

Moving forward, we plan to incorporate more data analysis and visualization and include a broken-down prediction featuring each factor's impact on the overall odds (with %s) to increase the quality of our predictions. Stay tuned!

Our data

Access Global Guessing's Burkina Faso election data, including other country statistics.