With most of the rivals in exile or without hesitation, Benin’s president, Patrice Talon, is looking to win a second term.
Voters in Benin are set to cast their ballots in Sunday’s presidential election, just days after a fierce protest against President Patrice Talon for a second term.
A cotton magnet talon, first selected in 2016, faced two lesser-known rivals, Soulsanu in Allison and Quentin Kohlu.
Opposition groups called for the removal of the two-year-old Talon, saying he was disregarding Benin’s vibrant multi-party democracy by removing most of his main opponents.
Protests turned violent in several cities last week. At least two Died Five more people were injured in the central city of Save on Thursday when the army fired tear gas and live rounds to disperse protesters who had blocked a major highway.
Several in the commercial capital, Cotonou, said they feared violence on election day.
“The events of these last days frighten me,” said Christoph Doso, a student. “I like to be careful.”
Among the protesters’ allegations was that he promised to serve only one term as Talon’s candidate, and that the changes he made to election laws were intended to facilitate unhealthy government institutions. In reality, these reforms resulted in parliamentary control by Tallinn’s supporters and the expulsion of leading opponents from the presidency.
Opposition leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan was arrested last month on charges of plotting to disrupt the election, but his lawyer said the allegations were false.
A judge in a special economic crime court set up by Talon also fled the country last week, condemning political pressure to rule against critics of the president, including the decision to detain Madugu.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Azavon, the third-ranked businessman in the 2011 presidential poll, was convicted of drug trafficking in 2018 and sentenced to 20 years in prison, while another possible rival, former finance minister Komi Kauche, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for embezzlement. He lives in Washington, DC.
Talon has denied targeting his opponents.
He has campaigned on his economic record, which includes key infrastructural improvements such as roads, water and fuel supply.
Benin, a country of about 12 million people, became the top cotton exporter in Africa in 2018 and recorded more than 5 percent of average annual gross domestic product before the global economic downturn due to the coronavirus epidemic.
“What we did was not easy,” Talon said at one of his final publicity rallies on Friday. “We are strong and we know how to do it.”
He said he expects to win a “knockout out,” which would require no run-off vote.
On Friday, the US, German, French and Dutch embassies and the European Union delegation in Benin called for calm and free and fair voting.
“We urge all parties to peacefully express their views,” State Department spokeswoman Ned Price told reporters. “We urge electoral bodies and the courts to monitor these processes and verify these results to ensure that these elections are conducted in a fair, fair and transparent manner.”
Results are expected to be announced on Monday or Tuesday.