OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Authorities in Burkina Faso met on Sunday to name an interim president to lead the country back to civilian rule after former head of state Blaise Compaore was toppled by protests last month and replaced by a military ruler.
A 23-strong committee drawn from the army, traditional and religious groups, civil society and the political opposition was expected to decide between five candidates, comprising a retired diplomat, a sociologist, two journalists and a priest.
"It's expected that the leader will be chosen tonight even if it gets late. We will be shut in like cardinals choosing a pope until people see white smoke," Luc Marius Ibriga, a member of the committee, told Reuters.
Military ruler Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida said on Saturday he had restored the constitution that was suspended when Compaore fled the country. The African Union had given him two weeks to re-establish civilian rule or face sanctions.
Compaore was a regional power broker and a Western ally against Islamist militants, but many opposed his efforts to change the constitution that would have allowed him to stand for re-election next year and extend his 27-year rule.
Analysts said former foreign minister Michel Kafando, 72, whose name was put forward by the army, looked to have most support. They said the next most popular candidate appeared to be Josephine Ouedraogo, 65, a former minister for the family who has also worked at the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa. She was also proposed by the army.
Sources close to the transition said civil society and the opposition had jointly proposed Newton Ahmed Barry, the editor-in-chief of newspaper l'Evenement and Cherif Moumina Sy, director of the newspaper Bendre.
They also suggested Paul Ouedraogo, a Roman Catholic archbishop in the second city Bobo Dioulasso. However, the church immediately said on its website that political power and the priesthood were incompatible under church law, appearing to nip his candidacy in the bud.
Once selected, the transitional president will name a prime minister to appoint a 25-member government, but will be barred from standing at the next election.
(Reporting by Mathieu Bonkoungou and Nadoun Coulibaly; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Crispian Balmer)