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World Benin vote count begins after opposition groups boycott election

01:10  12 april  2021
01:10  12 april  2021 Source:   aljazeera.com

Benin: a judge of a special court fled the country denouncing "pressures"

 Benin: a judge of a special court fled the country denouncing © France 24 (screenshot) Essowed Batamoussi, the Beninese judge of a special court who fled the country, interviewed by France 24. A few days before the presidential election in Benin, a judge of a special court fled the country, affirming suffering from the authorities. The latter denounce "political manipulation". "The judge I am is not independent". Monday, April 5, a judge of a special court at Benin fled the country accusing the authorities of "pressures".

Vote counting began in Benin on Sunday after a presidential poll that was boycotted by some opposition parties over pre-election violence and their objection to President Patrice Talon’s quest for a second term.

a group of people wearing costumes: Benin's president Patrice Talon casts his ballot at a polling station in Cotonou, Benin [Charle Placide Tossou/Reuters] © Benin's president Patrice Talon casts his ballot at a polling station in Cotonou, Benin [Charle Plac... Benin's president Patrice Talon casts his ballot at a polling station in Cotonou, Benin [Charle Placide Tossou/Reuters]

Provisional results of the first round of the election are expected by April 13.

A cotton tycoon first elected in 2016, Talon faced off against two little-known rivals while some of the West African country’s key opposition leaders boycotted the election.

Benin opposition supporters block roads ahead of vote

  Benin opposition supporters block roads ahead of vote "Talon, leave power," shouted an angry crowd of about sixty people after setting up a makeshift barricade Wednesday on a main road in central Benin, one of several protests against President Patrice Talon days before he seeks re-election. Talon is set to win a second term on April 11 but opponents say the vote is already rigged in favour of the cotton magnate first elected in 2016. Benin has long been applauded as a strong multi-party democracy but critics say that under Talon, the West African country has veered into authoritarianism.

Benin was once praised as a vibrant democracy in the region, but most opposition figures are now exiled, disqualified by electoral reforms or have been targeted for investigation by a special court.

Protests in several cities this week turned violent. Some people were killed in gunfire on Thursday in the central town of Bante when security forces fired warning shots, its mayor told local radio, without saying how many died.

After casting his vote at a primary school in the commercial capital, Cotonou, Talon said Benin was “writing another page in its history despite the intimidation”.

“There are people who have mobilised fighters to attack the republic. Police officers have been attacked with weapons of war. It is regrettable,” he said, without elaborating.

presidential in Benin: anger against the "confiscation" of the

 presidential in Benin: anger against the votes © Yanick Folly protesters block a road in Toui, a bastion of the opposition in northern Benin, April 7, 2021 The army intervened Thursday In the center of Benin to disperse protest protestants against the "confiscation" by the President Patrice Talon of the Sunday presidential election whose real opposition has been eliminated. Soldiers made use of tear gas to disperse protesters who since blocked the main road of Savè, in the center of Benin.

Among the protesters’ complaints are Talon’s U-turn on a pledge he made as a candidate in 2016 to serve only one term, and changes he pushed through to election laws, which resulted in total control of parliament by Talon’s supporters and the exclusion of leading opponents from the presidential race.

Boycott call

A coalition of opposition parties in a statement late on Saturday called on their supporters to boycott the poll, and voters largely stayed away from at least five polling stations in opposition-supporting areas of Cotonou.

“I think it is an election whose results are known in advance. My vote will not change anything,” said Nadine Abibou, a 27-year-old shopkeeper.

Others were undeterred by the boycott call.

“I came to vote this morning to choose the president. I hope that the Beninese will come out massively to do the same as I did,” said Diane Fanou, a 30-year-old hairdresser, in the Zogbo neighbourhood.

As of 11am local time (10:00 GMT), voting had not started in several districts in the centre of the country because election materials had been blocked from reaching polling stations, a group of civil society organisations monitoring the election said.

US democracy watchdog Freedom House downgraded Benin last year in its annual rankings from  “free” to “partly free”.

The US, German, French and Dutch embassies as well as the EU delegation in Benin had all called for calm and for the vote to go ahead in a free and transparent manner.

Benin's Talon takes tough line after re-election win .
Benin's President Patrice Talon took a tough stance on Wednesday vowing to track down those responsible for violence in opposition protests after he was re-elected in a vote critics say was stacked in his favour. "Opposition supporters shunned the ballot, either out of fear or lack of motivation following a call to boycott the vote, or disgusted by a government that inspires neither confidence nor enthusiasm," said Corentin Kohoue, one of the two rivals in the election, acknowledging defeat on Wednesday.Songhai Advisory, an Africa risk analysis group, said the election victory leaves Talon unhindered to pursue his economic and other policies.

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