26 March 2007

Benin: Legislative Election Postponed While Problems Ironed Out

Cotonou — Legislative elections in Benin were stalled on Friday following the last minute approval by the Constitutional Court and President Boni Yayi of a request by the National Electoral Commission for more time to prepare.

The poll, which was supposed to be being held on Sunday, will now be held one week later, on 31 March, according to a statement from the Presidency, released to the media on Friday.

The postponement was called because of "numerous difficulties" which would have prevented the National Election Comission (CENA) ensuring the voting process was free and fair.

"These difficulties are the consequence of a crisis which has shaken CENA since it was created on 13 January 2007, and that have made it unable to execute its many essential tasks," the statement said.

CENA's first head, Antonin Akpinkou, was replaced earlier this year after accusations from the government that the new body was already ignoring rules laid down in Benin's electoral law.

According to the Presidency's statement, CENA's failure to either transport voting equipment to booths around the country, or to properly scrutinise the electoral lists are the main problems now.

Some 4 million voters - over half of the 7.5 million population - have apparently registered to vote for the 83 legislative posts, but some people say their names do not appear on the list even though they registered.

CENA apparently only received the electoral lists on 22 March, three days before the election was supposed to happen.

The country's last elections saw President Yayi, a political novice and former banker, elected in a landslide victory to the presidency on a platform that promised to end corruption and economic crime, and "reinstate ethics" in state institutions.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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