World Backtracking on one-term pledge, Benin President Talon seeks five more years
Feared and revered: Patrice Talon, Benin's 'King of Cotton'
Benin's President Patrice Talon came to power in 2016 pitching himself as a successful tycoon who sought just a single term in office, bringing competence and entrepreneurial drive to the nation. Today, the man dubbed "the King of Cotton" is on course for a second spell at the helm, declaring that his mission for change has yet to be completed. But critics say Talon has skewed Sunday's elections in his favour -- another alarming tilt towards authoritarianism, they charge, in what was once a vibrant multi-party democracy.In January the president backtracked on his one-term promise and announced he would run again.
By Allegresse Sasse
COTONOU, Benin (Reuters) - Benin's President Patrice Talon, who previously vowed to serve only one term, enters Sunday's election a heavy favourite to win five more years in office amid criticism he has tarnished the country's reputation as one of West Africa's model democracies.
Talon, a multi-millionaire cotton magnate, faces two challengers, but analysts say he has prevented his strongest rivals from running by driving them into exile under the threat of criminal charges.
Protests erupt in Benin as Talon seeks reelection
Protests broke out in Benin Tuesday in another day of tensions as opposition demonstrators burned property of pro-government deputies and blockaded roads, days before President Patrice Talon faces an election. "Others chanted slogans hostile to President Patrice Talon."Tensions have erupted in several towns around the West African country since Monday night, local residents and witnesses said, in the lead-up to Sunday's ballot in which Talon is strongly favoured to win a second term.
His U-turn about a second term, which he pledged as a candidate in 2016 to forgo in order to avoid "complacency", has led to protests in the country of 12 million. Hundreds marched and burned tyres on Tuesday in several cities.
Talon says he needs another term to consolidate the gains of his first. He has defended the legal charges brought against his rivals as justified by their acts.
"I will be a candidate to strengthen this good governance that we have just acquired, and which allows us to start building up our country," he said recently during a tour of southern Benin.
A business-minded reformer who pushed to digitise government services, Talon has campaigned on his economic record.
Benin became West Africa's top cotton exporter in 2018 and recorded average gross domestic product growth of over 5% before the global economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Backtracking on one-term pledge, Benin President Talon seeks five more years
Backtracking on one-term pledge, Benin President Talon seeks five more yearsCOTONOU, Benin (Reuters) - Benin's President Patrice Talon, who previously vowed to serve only one term, enters Sunday's election a heavy favourite to win five more years in office amid criticism he has tarnished the country's reputation as one of West Africa's model democracies.
But his critics accuse him of undermining democratic progress after his predecessor Thomas Boni Yayi stepped down when his two terms ended in 2016, distinguishing Benin from other African presidents who revised constitutions to stay in power.
In 2018, Talon pushed through electoral reforms that disqualified all opposition parties from running the following year. As a result his supporters control all 83 seats in the national assembly.
Several prominent opposition leaders have been detained this year on terrorism-related charges, including at least one whose presidential candidacy was rejected by the electoral commission, Amnesty International said.
The two opposition candidates on the ballot are Alassane Soumanou, who was a minister under Boni Yayi, and Corentin Kohoue, a veteran politician.
"Everybody knows that there's no real choice in this election because the president chose the opposition candidates who can run against him," said Mathias Hounkpe from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.
Benin's Talon vows 'KO' win in Sunday election
Benin President Patrice Talon on Friday promised a "KO" first-round victory in Sunday's election that opponents say is already rigged after his main rivals were disqualified from running. He said he expected a "KO" -- a knockout victory for which there would be no need for a runoff vote. Benin was long praised as a thriving multi-party democracy in often troubled West Africa, but critics say Talon has steered the country into authoritarianism with a steady crackdown on his opponents.
Neil Thompson, an analyst with the Economist Intelligence Unit, said that under Talon's leadership Benin "appears to be trading perhaps temporary economic growth for a growing political instability, one that may in the end undermine the very development Mr. Talon is using to justify his power".
Charles, a 25-year-old student in the commercial capital of Cotonou who only gave his first name, said he was very concerned by questions of democracy and freedom.
"I won't abandon my right to free expression for anything in the world," he said. "These questions are going to influence my vote."
Other voters were more focused on economic issues.
"We are not yet developed. We need to continue to improve our education and health systems," said Aminatou, a 50-year-old teacher, who also gave only her first name.
(Reporting by Allegresse Sasse and Hereward Holland; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Aaron Ross and Karishma Singh)
Benin election protest death toll rises to two .
A second person has died after troops opened fire with live rounds to break up a protest in central Benin just days before President Patrice Talon seeks re-election, a local official said on Friday. Talon, a cotton magnate first elected in 2016, is expected to easily win Sunday's ballot with most of his main opponents exiled or disqualified, but protests have erupted in opposition bastions in the centre and north of the country. On Thursday,Talon, a cotton magnate first elected in 2016, is expected to easily win Sunday's ballot with most of his main opponents exiled or disqualified, but protests have erupted in opposition bastions in the centre and north of the country.