Tension in Benin as President seeks reelection

 

The people of Benin go to the polls today Sunday amid tension, accusing President Patrice Talon of sidelining opposition leaders to give him an upper hand and an eventual win as president.

Talon faces two little-known rivals, Alassane Soumanou and Corentin Kohoue.

 

It should be noted that most opposition leaders are in exile and have been disqualified by electoral reforms or targeted for investigation by a special court.

Once praised as a vibrant democracy in an often troubled region, tension rose ahead of the vote, with protests breaking out in several cities.

 

A civil society platform remarked on Saturday that “The particularity of this election is that it is taking place in an atmosphere of tension and violence.”

In central and northern Benin, protesters blocked hundreds of cars and trucks traveling between the coast and the north.

 

Two people died, and five others suffered wounds from gunshots in the city of Save recently after troops fired tear gas and lived rounds in the air to disperse the demonstrators.

“I don’t understand what Talon is doing… if the president has issues with opponents, he should spare the people,” said Philomene M’Betti Tepa, a resident of the northwestern town of Boukoumbe.

 

Talon’s supporters have denied accusations that the election will be rigged, saying all the conditions have been met for a free and fair election.

 

More than 4,9 million people are eligible to vote across 15,531 polling stations in Benin.

The US, German, French and Dutch embassies, and the EU delegation in Benin have all called for calm and for the vote to go on in a free and transparent atmosphere. 

 

Following 17 years of military rule along Marxist-Leninist lines, the former French colony embraced multi-party democracy in 1990.

Ever since Talon assumed office as an independent candidate, critics say he has used special economic crimes and terrorism court, and electoral reforms as tools to disqualify the opposition.

 

Following the campaign’s last days, the economic capital Cotonou was completely covered up with blue posters backing Talon and his running mate for the vice-presidency, Mariam Talata.

Election results are expected to be announced on Monday or Tuesday.

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