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03.05.2019 Benin

Benin troops in protest clampdown after contested vote

By AFP
Demonstrators on Thursday barricaded the streets in Cadjehoun around the home of former president Thomas Boni Yayi, which had become the focal point for protests.  By Yanick Folly (AFP)
MAY 3, 2019 BENIN
Demonstrators on Thursday barricaded the streets in Cadjehoun around the home of former president Thomas Boni Yayi, which had become the focal point for protests. By Yanick Folly (AFP)

Troops in Benin maintained a tight clamp on protests Friday after two days of post-election violence that left up to three people dead.

Soldiers broke up demonstrations with gunfire on Thursday around the home of ex-president Thomas Boni Yayi, which had become a focal point of protests, and on Friday were sealing off roads to the site, according to an AFP reporter.

Parliamentary elections last Sunday were marked by low turnout and widespread anger at changes to electoral rules that effectively barred opposition parties from fielding candidates.

The final results, issued late Thursday by Joseph Djogbenou, president of Benin's Constitutional Court, showed that all seats were won by the only two parties allowed to take part -- both allied to President Patrice Talon.

Turnout was 27.1 percent, a record low since Benin transited to democracy nearly 40 years ago, although higher than the 23 percent given in preliminary results, Djogbenou said.

The protests began hours after the initial results were released on Wednesday.

Large numbers of troops and riot police -- as well as hundreds of protesters manning burning barricades -- squared off in the streets of Benin's economic capital Cotonou.

On Thursday, soldiers deployed in force, clearing the streets with gunfire.

Map locating Cotonou and Porto-Novo in Benin.  By Paz PIZARRO (AFP) Map locating Cotonou and Porto-Novo in Benin. By Paz PIZARRO (AFP)

Djogbenou, who is close to the presidency, said the "irregularities" and "disturbances" recorded during polling were not enough to "compromise the validity of the vote".

The small West African state's vibrant political scene has long made it a model for democracy. But civil society and rights groups inside and outside Benin say debate and dissent are at threat.

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