14, April 2021
Benin’s President Patrice Talon was easily re-elected to a second term, provisional results showed Tuesday, after a weekend election critics said was already stacked in his favour following a crackdown on his opponents.
Talon, a cotton tycoon first elected to lead the West African state in 2016, faced two little-known rivals in Sunday’s vote with most of his key opponents in exile or disqualified from running.
Talon won 86.3 percent of the vote, the electoral commission said as it announced preliminary results, while his opponents Alassane Soumanou and Corentin Kohoue got 11.29 and 2.25 percent respectively.
Benin’s constitutional court must verify the final results.
Once praised as a vibrant multi-party democracy, critics say the former French colony has veered onto an authoritarian path under Talon with a steady campaign against his political foes.
Three international observer missions had already noted low turnout in the election, though they said the vote generally went ahead peacefully despite tensions and protests in the lead-up.
With the 62-year-old incumbent almost guaranteed victory, analysts had said voter turnout would be a key measure of his election success.
Turnout was 50.17 percent, the commission said.
Even before the announcement, for some Beninese the election results meant little.
“This election was just folklore,” said restaurant owner George Kpatchavi. “We are not waiting for the results because they were already known in advance. After the elections, everything will return to order.”
An association of civil society groups, which deployed more than 1,400 election observers, said in its preliminary statement Sunday that “attempts to pressurise, intimidate, threaten, corrupt or harass voters were observed across the entire country”.
Protests in north
Protests had blocked some routes in opposition strongholds in the centre and north of the country in the run-up to the election, leading to delays in the dispatch of electoral materials.
Two people were killed last week when troops fired live rounds into the air to break up an opposition protest blockading a major route in the central city of Save.
Benin has seen some economic successes under Talon, who promised a “KO” first-round win in Sunday’s election. Supporters have praised his projects to expand electricity and basic services.
But since Talon first came to power, critics say he has used a special economic crimes and terrorism court and electoral reforms as tools to disqualify the opposition.
Reckya Madougou, one opposition leader who was barred from running, was detained last month on accusations of plotting to disrupt the vote, a charge her lawyer said was politically motivated.
Earlier this month, a judge from the special court that ordered her detention said he had fled the country, denouncing political pressure to make rulings against Talon’s opponents.
Government officials dismissed claims the election was rigged to favour Talon and said exiled opposition leaders were trying to have the vote cancelled with a smear campaign.