With most competitors in exile or sidelined, Benin’s President Patrice Talon looks set to secure a second term in office.
Voters in Benin prepare to vote in Sunday’s presidential election, days after deadly rallies against President Patrice Talon, who is heavily backed to win his second term .
Talon, a cotton magnate who was first elected in 2016, is up against two lesser known rivals, Alassane Soumanou and Corentin Kohoue.
Opponents accuse 62-year-old Talon of undermining Benin’s vibrant multi-party democracy by eliminating most of his main rivals.
The protests in some cities last week turned violent. At least two people died in downtown Save when the army on Thursday fired tear gas and fired real bullets to bid farewell to the protesters who blocked a major highway. Five others were injured.
In the commercial capital Cotonou, some people said they feared violence on election day.
“The events of these last days frightened me,” said Christophe Dossou, a student. “I prefer to be more cautious.”
Among the protesters’ complaints was Talon turning his back on the pledge he made as a candidate in 2016 to serve only one term and the changes he has adopted. for electoral law which he says is intended to rationalize difficult government institutions. In fact, those reforms have resulted in Talon supporters taking full control of the parliament and removing leading opponents from the presidential race.
An opposition leader Reckya Madougou was arrested last month for allegedly conspiring to disrupt the election, an accusation her lawyer said was fabricated.
A judge from the special economic crime court created by Talon also fled the country last week after denouncing political pressure to make a ruling against critics of the president, including even decided to arrest Madougou.
Meanwhile, businessman Sebastien Ajavon, who came third in the 2016 presidential poll, was convicted of drug trafficking in 2018 and sentenced to 20 years in prison, while another potential rival, the former Finance Minister Komi Koutche, sentenced to 20 years in prison for embezzlement. Ajavon lived in exile in France, while Koutche lived in Washington, DC.
Talon denies targeting her opponents.
He has campaigned on his economic profile, including improvements to critical infrastructure such as roads, water and energy supplies.
Benin, a country with around 12 million people, became Africa’s top cotton exporter in 2018 and recorded an average annual gross domestic product growth of over 5% before the global recession. demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“What we did was not easy,” Talon said at one of the last rallies of the campaign on Friday. “We’re strong and we know how to accomplish it.”
He said he expected a “knock-out win” that would not require a shortened vote.
The embassies of the United States, Germany, France and the Netherlands as well as the European Union delegation in Benin all called for calm and free and transparent voting.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters: “We urge all parties to express their views peacefully. “We urge electoral organizations and courts to monitor these processes and verify these results to ensure these elections are conducted freely, fairly and transparently.”
The results are expected to be announced on Monday or Tuesday.