See also:
» 15.03.2011 - Benin opposition denounces election fraud
» 05.03.2011 - Benin protesters won demanded vote delay
» 21.02.2011 - Benin protests ahead of presidential polls
» 24.06.2008 - "Public debate in Benin being silenced"
» 20.02.2008 - Benin let-go CAR rebel leaders
» 26.03.2007 - Last minute delay of Benin polls
» 03.04.2006 - President-elect pledges change "with God's blessing"
» 12.07.2005 - Benin President to retire next year

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Politics | Society

Fear of post-election violence in Benin

Protests in Cotonou, Benin on 23 March 2011

© UN party/afrol News
afrol News, 28 March
- Benin's Constitutional Court today started examining the opposition's claims of vote rigging after the elections had given a surprise outright win to the incumbent. Observers fear "Ivorian conditions" in Benin.

After a chaotic run-up to the presidential elections in Benin, with protests and delays over very incomplete electoral rolls, the 13 March ballot went along peacefully. The opposition however was shocked by the official results, giving an outright victory to incumbent President Boni Yayi, supposedly getting 53 percent of the votes.

It had been widely expected that President Yayi - running for his second term - and main opposition leader Adrien Houngbédji would both get less than 50 percent of the vote, thus heading towards a second poll round. But Mr Houngbédji, according to official results, only got 35 percent of the votes.

The opposition immediately cried foul, claiming to have documentation of a wide range of vote rigging throughout the country.

On Thursday, massive protests by the opposition and trade unions rocked Cotonou, with protesters asking for President Yayi to step down and accusing government of vote rigging. The protests were dispersed violently by police, using teargas and batons. Several opposition figures were arrested.

Since the Thursday protests, the temperature in Cotonou is reported to be close to the boiling point, with the opposition and trade unions calling for further mass protests and government warning against illegal demonstrations and violence.

Observers are nervously seeing the situation deteriorate in this normally peaceful country, where democratic traditions and institutions were believed to have been firmly established since the introduction on multi-party elections in the early 1990s and two following peaceful power transfers between t

Benin opposition leader Adrien Houngbedji denouncing electoral fraud

© Partie UN/afrol News
he ruling party and the opposition.

On Friday, the UN's West Africa chief Said Djinnit warned against an escalation in Benin, saying he feared Côte d'Ivoire-like conditions in the country. The situation was "worrying" and the "incidents of violence" were steadily increasing, he warned. He warned against "a situation like in Côte d'Ivoire," calling for international pressure for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Today, Benin's Constitutional Court started examining the complaints filed by the opposition regarding election fraud. It is hoped that the court's treatment of the case could calm tempers somewhat in Benin, at least for a while.

The court has a relatively high standing in both political camps and is widely seen as being independent. Before the elections, the court sided with the opposition and ordered government to postpone elections until electoral rolls could become more complete, as demanded by the opposition. But the extension was rather short, which was seen as a compromise solution.

According to the complaint by Mr Houngbédji and a minor opposition leader, fraud was committed by denying "hundreds of thousands of voters" their right to vote, in addition to the stuffing of large amounts of fake ballots into boxes and the delivery of fake and unsealed ballot boxes to the electoral commission. The opposition claims to have proof of its allegations.

The opposition originally demanded the holding of a second poll round, but now is claiming the outright victory of its candidate, Mr Houngbédji. They now expect the court to declare him winner of the elections.

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