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13.04.2021 Benin

Benin's president poised for win as election results due

By Camille MALPLAT
Benin President Patrice Talon, seen here voting, was widely expected to win another term.  By PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (AFP)
LISTEN APR 13, 2021
Benin President Patrice Talon, seen here voting, was widely expected to win another term. By PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (AFP)

Benin's President Patrice Talon was poised to secure a second term on Tuesday, with election officials due to announce the results of a weekend ballot marked by low turnout after an opposition boycott.

Talon, a cotton tycoon first elected to lead the West African state in 2016, faced two little-known rivals in Sunday's vote with most of his key opponents in exile or disqualified from running.

The electoral commission was expected to announce the provisional results later on Tuesday after a ballot critics say was already rigged in Talon's favour following a crackdown on his political foes.

Three international observer missions all noted low turnout in the election, though they said the vote had general gone ahead peacefully despite tensions and protests in the lead-up the ballot.

Critics say the vote was rigged in Talon's favour after a crackdown on opponents.  By PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (AFP) Critics say the vote was rigged in Talon's favour after a crackdown on opponents. By PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (AFP)

"A low turnout of voters was observed from the early hours of the polls and with slight improvement during the day in some places," the mission from the West African economic bloc ECOWAS said in a statement.

Observers from the African Union also noted no lines at polling stations visited by their mission while the International Organisation of La Francophonie noted "a relatively weak mobilisation of voters throughout the day".

Once praised as a vibrant multi-party democracy, the former French colony has veered onto an authoritarian path under Talon with a steady campaign against his opponents, critics say.

With the 62-year-old incumbent almost guaranteed victory, analysts said voter turnout would be a key measure of his election success.

According to Benin's constitution, provisional results have to be released within 48 hours, a spokesman for the Autonomous National Electoral Commission (CENA) said. The CENA will meet from 6pm (1700 GMT).

But for some Beninese, the election results meant little, with Talon almost certain of victory from the start.

"This election was just folklore," said restaurant owner George Kpatchavi. "We are not waiting for the results because they were already known in advance. After the elections, everything will return to order."

Protests in north

Map of Benin.  By  (AFP) Map of Benin. By (AFP)

Protests had blocked some routes in opposition strongholds in the centre and north of the country in the run-up to the election, leading to delays in the dispatch of electoral materials.

Two people were killed last week when troops fired live rounds into the air to break up an opposition protest blockading a major route in the central city of Save.

The vast majority of ballots from Benin's 546 districts arrived in Cotonou, where they are being processed, according to an electoral commission source earlier on Tuesday.

Those from the north of the country, which were transported by convoy for security reasons, "arrived at the commission on Monday evening," the source said.

Two people were killed last week when troops fired live rounds into the air to break up an opposition protest blockading a major route in the central city of Save.  By Yanick Folly (AFP) Two people were killed last week when troops fired live rounds into the air to break up an opposition protest blockading a major route in the central city of Save. By Yanick Folly (AFP)

Benin has seen some economic successes under Talon, who promised a "KO" first-round win in Sunday's election. Supporters have praised his projects to expand electricity and basic services.

But since Talon first came to power, critics say he has used a special economic crimes and terrorism court and electoral reforms as tools to disqualify the opposition.

Reckya Madougou, one opposition leader who was barred from running, was detained last month on accusations of plotting to disrupt the vote, a charge her lawyer said was politically motivated.

Earlier this month, a judge from the special court that ordered her detention said he had fled the country, denouncing political pressure to make rulings against Talon's opponents.

Government officials dismissed claims the election was rigged to favour Talon and said exiled opposition leaders were trying to have the vote cancelled with a smear campaign.

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