Voting in Benin marred by protests amid tense election


(dpa) – Voting in the West African nation of Benin on Sunday was disrupted by several demonstrations over President Patrice Talon’s efforts to seek re-election.

The central city of Save, 250 kilometres north of the capital Cotonou, saw protests that prevented voters from casting their ballots. The city had already been the site of violent protests in the days leading up to the elections.

On Sunday, demonstrations were also witnessed in the towns of Tchaourou and Bante. Protestors defied Talon’s decree that no demonstrations should take place after April 6.

Some 5.5 million people were called on to cast their vote between 7 am and 3 pm local time (0600 to 1400 GMT).

Talon, a former cotton businessman, faces two other candidates: the leader of the recently formed Democrats Party Corentin Kohoue and Alassane Soumanou of the Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin (FCBE) party.

Since coming to power in 2016, Talon is accused of cracking down on the opposition. At least five opposition figures have been detained under his rule, according to the Institute of Security Studies.

Last month, opposition politician Reckya Madougou was arrested on charges related to disrupting the election. Opposition figures said 2016 runner-up Lionel Zinsou was barred from running this year over alleged campaign violations, according to an editorial written by opposition figure Rogatien Biaou of the New Hope Patriotic Alliance.

Talon’s former rival Sebastien Ajavon, who came third in the 2016 election, now lives in exile after he was convicted of drug trafficking.

The country’s 2019 legislative elections were also marred by violence. Attempts to reform the electoral laws have reached an impasse, according to the Institute of Security Studies, a continental think-tank.

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