Benin holds parliamentary elections, opposition allowed to contest | Election News

The vote was seen as a test of democracy as opposition candidates were allowed to enter the polls after a four-year absence.

Voters in Benin are heading to the polls for a parliamentary election seen as a test of democracy as opposition parties return to the ballot box after boycott or be excluded from most recent presidential and legislative votes.

Benin’s image as a bastion of democracy and stability in West Africa has been dented under President Patrice Talon, who has pledged not to run for another term and oversaw a crackdown on the opposition since coming to power in 2016.

In Sunday’s vote, about 6.6 million voters were eligible to elect 109 delegates, including at least 24 women – at least one in each constituency – under a new electoral code.

Seven parties are competing in the vote, including the Les Democrates party linked to Talon’s predecessor and rival Thomas Boni Yayi.

Boni Yayi supporters take the lead protest in 2019 after opposition parties were blocked from the legislative vote for failing to meet strict new eligibility criteria.

“I will vote for this party [Les Democrates] to rebalance power,” civil society activist Isidore Odountan, 31, told Reuters news agency in Cotonou’s largest city.

Preliminary results, scheduled for January 11, could also be an indicator of the strength of the various political forces vying for Talon’s succession. The next presidential election will take place in 2026 when the next parliamentary vote will also be held.

Talon does not belong to any party but is supported by the two parties currently in power in parliament – the Republican Bloc and the Progressive Alliance le Renouveau.

Political analyst Expedit Ologou, head of the Citizens Academy for Africa’s Future, said there was no immediate indication that the vote would see protests like 2019 or protests broke out in 2021 against Talon’s decision to run for re-election.

“The atmosphere seems calm, peaceful, friendly, fraternal in most parts of the country,” he told Reuters.

Under Talon, political protests were met with deadly police violence, while politicized prosecutions and other legal tactics were used to strangle opposition, organize US democracy watchdog Freedom House said in its 2022 report.

Talon has denied targeting political opponents or violating human rights.

With more parties on the ballot, turnout should return to a normal level of around 60% after falling to just 27% in 2019, Ologou said.

Regional security may be of greater concern to voters in this election as Benin, along with neighboring Togo and Ivory Coast, has seen increased attacks from armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) as violence crept south from the Sahel countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

The International Monetary Fund warned last July that insecurity and the higher cost of living associated with the war in Ukraine were a threat to Benin’s recent economic achievements.

Benin’s agriculture-dependent economy has recovered since the coronavirus pandemic, growing by more than 7% in 2021 and the first half of 2022. However, the country of 12 million people remains one of poorest countries in the world with one-fifth of the population living on a lower income. more than $1.90 per day, according to the World Bank.

In addition to the opposition’s bid to regain seats in parliament, Sunday’s election will affect the future of several other institutions in the tiny country located between Nigeria and Togo.

The Constitutional Court’s mandate will end this year, and three years before the 2026 presidential vote, the court’s composition is crucial as it oversees election decisions.

Four judges are appointed by legislators while the remaining three are selected by the president.

Talon, a wealthy businessman, was elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2021.


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