Record low turnout at Benin polls with no opposition

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Polling officials check ballots before voting at a polling station during the elections for a new parliament in Cotonou in this April 28, 2019 file photo. — AFP

COTONOU — Benin’s electoral commission has announced the results of controversial elections that were held without any opposition candidates and saw a record low turnout just under 23 percent.

All candidates contesting the April 28 vote came from just two parties, the Republican Bloc and the Progressive Union, both allied to President Patrice Talon.

The small West African state was long held up as a model for democracy, but the main opposition parties were effectively barred from fielding candidates by tough new eligibility rules.

Many citizens heeded opposition party calls to boycott the polls.

The election commission announced late on Tuesday that 22.99 percent of the almost five million eligible voters had cast ballots.

Turnout had never previously been below 50 percent since the country’s transition to democracy in 1990.

The results were never in much doubt, with the two parties participating sharing the 83 seats in parliament — the Progressive Union picking up 47 and the Republican Bloc 36.

Before 1990, Benin struggled under decades of authoritarian rule. Democracy brought a flowering of political competition — five years ago, voters could chose from 20 parties.

But this year, lawmakers from the ruling party pushed through a new electoral code that left not a single opposition candidate to choose from.

Two former presidents had condemned the polls and called for them to be annulled.

Commission chairman Emmanuel Tiando said voting did not take place in 39 of the country’s 546 districts due to “incidents”.

Civil society groups reported two deaths during polling, out of a total of 206 incidents, including clashes and destruction of election materials. — AFP


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