Patrice Talon allies in Benin sweep municipal elections

Voters queue at a primary school in Cotonou, on May 17 2020, to cast their vote for the Benin local election.
Voters queue at a primary school in Cotonou, on May 17 2020, to cast their vote for the Benin local election.
Image: AFP/ YANICK FOLLY

Two parties close to President Patrice Talon scored a crushing majority in Benin’s municipal elections on Sunday, which were controversially held despite the coronavirus threat.

Of 1,815 council seats at stake in the West African country, 1,555 were won by the Progressive Union and the Republican Bloc, the electoral commission CENA announced late on Wednesday. Turnout was about 50%.

The outcome had been widely expected in the context of Benin’s political crisis.

The only opposition party able to field candidates, the Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin (FCBE), formed by supporters of former president Boni Yayi, picked up 260 seats.

Two other parties, the PRD and UDBN, failed to reach a threshold of 10% entitling them to a share of the seats.

Talon, a former business magnate who came to power in 2016, has been accused of engineering a crackdown that has tarnished Benin’s reputation as a vibrant multi-party democracy.

Parties allied to the president won all the seats at legislative polls last year after opposition groups were effectively banned from standing, but turnout was only 25%.

Thousands of protesters, many of them supporters of the former president, took to the streets, where police dispersed them using live rounds.

Sunday’s municipal elections were for seats on 77 councils across the country. Many parties were barred from voting because they did not meet conditions set down by a new electoral code.

Their leaders urged the public not to cast their vote, given what they called a “parody” of an election and the risk from Covid-19.

Political commentator Ambroise Hountondji said, “Nothing has fundamentally changed. We are virtually in the same scenario as in the last legislative elections, because most of the municipal councils are made up of councillors belonging to Patrice Talon’s two political parties.” — AFP


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