By James Knight and Katrina Manson

Ouagadougou - Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore stormed to a third consecutive term on Friday with a landslide victory in presidential polls, results from the West African country's electoral commission showed.

Compaore, who has ruled the impoverished country for almost two decades, took 80 percent of the vote, the commission said. His nearest rival, Benewende Sankara, won just five percent - fewer votes than the number of void ballot papers.

"The large victory was evidence of the vision of the Burkinabe people," said Salif Diallo, campaign manager for Compaore's Congress for Democracy and Progress party.

Party members and some journalists in the conference hall where the results were announced waved white handkerchiefs and chanted "Victory, victory". Cars honked their horns in the streets outside as the results were broadcast on radio.

Sunday's election, in which there were 12 candidates, was passed as fair by international observers but opposition groups have complained of widespread irregularities such as multiple voting by Compaore militants.

"The opposition has denounced lots of fraud but it is up to them to bring us proof," Michel Tapsoba, head of the country's National Electoral Commission, told reporters, adding that any candidate now had 48 hours to contest the result.

Voter turnout was around 58 percent, he said.

A new law in Burkina Faso prohibits presidents from standing for more than two terms but the Constitutional Court ruled the law could not be applied retroactively, clearing the way for Compaore's campaign and infuriating his opponents.

On the dusty streets of the low-rise capital Ouagadougou, few residents were surprised by the result but said they hoped Compaore would do more to fight poverty in his third term.

"The 'old-new' president must build consensus and listen equally to those who didn't vote for him," said Pierre-Antoine Ilboudo, a civil servant. "Despite his victory, there is some gnashing of teeth and discontent."

Many in the former French colony, where more than half the population survives on less than $1 a day, say a cult of personality around the one-time revolutionary commando has done much to shield him from blame for the harsh realities of life.

House-sized posters of his head superimposed on the body of action hero Indiana Jones adorned walls during campaigning and specially commissioned water bottles carried his image.

Most analysts had said a landslide win was a foregone conclusion for the former army captain, who won elections in 1991 virtually unopposed and in 1998, when opposition parties boycotted the polls calling them unfair.

"That Compaore was not seriously threatened on a national level is unsurprising. With 11 separate candidates, the opposition was always too divided to make an impact," Olly Owen, analyst at research group Global Insight said earlier this week.

After seizing power in 1987, Compaore quickly built a government that dismantled the Marxist-style structures and rhetoric of its predecessor and introduced economic reforms at the prompting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

He enjoys the support of the 10 000-strong military and near-unanimous backing from traditional leaders in the country.