The race for elections in Benin left one dead and several people shot and wounded during protests Thursday in the central town of Save, an opposition stronghold, after troops descended to disperse the protests. Unrest has arisen as critics of incumbent President Patrice Talon say Sunday’s presidential vote is skewed in his favor, with opposition leaders sidelined amid rule changes on who might come up.
Benin was once hailed as a vibrant multi-party democracy in an often troubled region, but critics say the country slipped into authoritarianism after the 2016 election of Talon, former cotton mogul and richest businessman. from Benin at the time.
Talon’s first term was an economic success, but some fear that success comes at a high democratic cost.
A political crisis followed contested parliamentary elections in April 2019, when parties allied with Talon won all seats after opposition groups were effectively banned.
An amendment to the electoral law in 2019 also required that presidential candidates be sponsored by at least 16 MPs or mayors.
Twenty potential candidates handed in documents to run for president in Sunday’s ballot, but the election commission said only three met the necessary requirements. Talon faces little-known rivals Alassane Soumanou and Corentin Kohoué in the vote. Most potential opposition candidates accuse the men of supporting unfair elections.
Iréné Agossa, Kohoué’s running mate, disputes this characterization. “For a democratic process like ours, it is absolutely necessary, the presence of the opposition”, says Agossa. “So this was bitterly negotiated and we got it. In the name of peace, in the name of consensus in the name of dialogue.”
Emmanuelle Sodji and Emmanuelle Landais from UKTN have this report from Benin.
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(UKTN with UKTN)