Benin voters are casting their ballots Sunday in a presidential election after a week of deadly violence against President Patrice Talon, who is seeking reelection.
Opposition parties accuse Talon, who is expected to win a second term, of manipulating the race in his favor by sidelining opposition leaders, most of whom are living in exile.
Although he points to strong economic growth while he has been in power, Talon has been accused by opponents of undermining the country's standing as one of the most stable democracies in West Africa. Freedom House, a U.S.-based democracy advocacy group, lowered Benin's annual ranking last year from "free" to "partly free."
Talon, 62, a multimillionaire cotton tycoon first elected president in 2016, is facing two rivals, Alassane Soumanou and Corentin Kohoue.
Protests in several cities turned violent. Speaking to the local radio station, the mayor of the central town of Bante said some people were killed in gunfire Thursday there as security forces fired warning shots, according to Reuters. The mayor did not say how many people were killed during protests.
The U.S., German, French and Dutch embassies and the European Union delegation to Benin have called for calm and for the vote to be conducted in a free and transparent manner.