afrol News, 21 February - An incomplete, digital electoral roll is providing for political controversy and protest marches in Benin, as the country gears up for its 6 March presidential elections.
The independent electoral commission of Benin recently finalised its computerised electoral roll, including 3,520,576 potential voters in the West African country, which has been a regional spearhead in establishing and defending multi-party democracy.
The commission's new electoral roll represents a technological breakthrough and will increase transparency in the upcoming elections, according to project leader Nassirou Bako-Arifari. It took the commission weeks to go from door to door in 77 Beninese counties in a major operation to make sure potential voters were registered, he adds.
But nevertheless, the electoral roll has become the focus of controversy. According to several opposition leaders, some 1.4 million Beninese citizens are missing from the electoral roll for different reasons - mostly because the commission did not reach them at home and due to time pressure.
A group of 11 out of the 14 presidential candidates therefore urged President Yayi Boni to postpone the elections "by a few weeks" to allow the commission to complete registration.
Political parties supporting President Boni and holding a parliamentary majority however have turned down the petition, saying this would be unconstitutional as a completion of the register would "require the indefinite postponement of the presidential election." The 6 March date for th
Re-election campaign presentation of Benins's Yayi Boni
Ombudsman Albert Tévoédjrč meanwhile proposes to set up posts outside the polling stations, where people not finding their names in the electoral roll could file a complaint and, if their identity and residence is supported by local chiefs, could be given a possibility to register for voting at the spot. The proposal has so far been met with scepticism.
Rather, opposition supporters today rallied against President Boni and the incomplete electoral roll in central Cotonou. According to police reports, around thousand protesters had gathered in the centre, and were dispersed by riot police using teargas.
Benin's main opposition group, Union makes the Nation (UfN), had organised the march, protesting that more than one million Beninese were denied their right to vote.
The UfN has filed Adrien Houngbedji as its candidate for the presidential polls. He is widely expected to become the main challenger to 59-year-old incumbent President Boni, who only in end-January announced his desire to run for a second term at the presidency.
Benin since the 1990s has enjoyed one of Africa's most functional and peaceful multi-party democracies, with heads of states accepting defeat in election and respecting the two-term limit. Despite these gains, economic development however has been slow in the country.
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