6 March 2016

Benin Polls Close With Few Difficulties

Photo: Le Pays
Photo d'archives

Benin's polls have closed with "no major incident" reported across the West African state, said an election monitor. The Beninese president said stepping down is "one further step forward" for the "big democracy."

Polls for Benin's presidential election closed at 16:00 local time (1500 UTC) with few reports of logistical difficulties.

Witnesses told Reuters news agency that there were some complaints that ink used to mark voters' fingers was not indelible.

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The first round of voting was due to take place on February 26, although it was rescheduled because of delays in the production and distribution of ballot papers.

Benin, which held its first democratic elections in 1991 following two decades of military rule, has some 4.7 million registered voters.

However, Mathieu Boni, an official from a civil society group which deployed more than 3,000 election monitors, said there was "no major incident," reported AFP news agency.

Voters turned out to choose President Thomas Boni Yayi's successor, who is ineligible for a third term according to Beninese law.

"Benin is a big democracy. With my departure our democracy will take one further step forward ... I leave the republic with national unity," the president said, as he cast his ballot.

Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou, who holds Beninese and French citizenship, leads the field with backing from the outgoing president and main opposition Democratic Renewal Party.

"I am proud of the conditions in which the campaign took place. It was a campaign without violence and an exercise in democracy," Zinsou said.

Other candidates include former IMF Africa Director Abdoulaye Bio Tchane, former premier Pascal Koupaki and cotton magnate Patrice Talon.

Results are expected within 72 hours of polls closing, according to the independent electoral commission. If a single candidate does not win an outright majority, the election will head into a run-off scheduled for late March.

ls/lw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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