World Backtracking on one-term pledge, Benin President Talon seeks five more years
Protests break out in Benin before election
Protests broke out across Benin on Monday night and Tuesday as opposition leaders called for demonstrations days before President Patrice Talon faces an election. Several opposition leaders took to social media to call for demonstrations. Former finance minister Komi Koutche, in exile like many of Benin's opposition figures, called on people to take to the streets to "mark the end of the Republican mandate handed over to Talon".
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.
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.
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's president re-elected, with main opponents sidelined .
Benin's President Patrice Talon was easily re-elected to a second term, provisional results showed Tuesday, after a weekend ballot critics said was already stacked in his favour following a crackdown on his opponents. Talon won 86.3% of the vote, the electoral commission said as it announced preliminary results, while his opponents Alassane Soumanou and Corentin Kohoue got 11.29% and 2.25% respectively. Benin's constitutional court must verify the final tally.Three international observer missions already noted low turnout, though they said the vote generally went ahead peacefully despite tensions and protests before the ballot that left two people dead.