Ouagadougou: Burkina Faso voted in Presidential Elections on Sunday with incumbent Blaise Compaore expected to win a fourth term amid criticism he plans to extend his grip on power indefinitely.
Compaore, 59, has led the impoverished African nation since 1987 when he staged the country`s fifth military coup since independence in 1960.
Supporters say he has brought stability to the land-locked former French colony and established himself as "mediator-in-chief" in other West African nations beset by crises.
The rural country remains one of the poorest in the world with nearly half of its 16 million population living in poverty.
The opposition, which boycotted the nation`s first two democratic polls in 1991 and 1998, remains weak, divided and lacking a strong, charismatic personality.
It is fielding six candidates including lawyer Benewende Stanislas Sankara who finished in second place in the 2005 ballot with nearly five percent of the vote compared to over 80 percent polled by the President.
Pargui Emile Pare, who scored less than one percent in 2005, was also standing along with first-time candidates former army commander Boukary Kabore, diplomat and former UN official Hama Arba Diallo, hydrogeologist Ouampoussoga Francois Kabore, and independent Maxime Kabore.
Polling among the 3.2 million registered voters started at 6:00 am (GMT) and was due to end at 6:00 pm.
If re-elected, Compaore has pledged to carry out political and institutional reform including the creation of a senate in addition to the national assembly.
But his party has taken it upon itself one highly contentious task.
The Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) said several months ago it wished to abolish the limit on the number of times the president can run for office, fixed in 1991 at two five-year terms.
In this way, Compaore could stand again in 2015 and beyond, after two five-year and two seven-year terms.
However, the influential Roman Catholic Church and the opposition have denounced the plan.
The electoral commission has said it expects to declare provisional results by Thursday at the latest.