Presidential election in Benin: voters hold their breath for the results of the first round
BY MODUPE ABIOLA, SPECIAL ENVOY
Benin voters will head back to the polls in two weeks after the first round of the presidential election held yesterday, March 6. The two front-runners, who are yet to be announced at the time of this writing on Monday at 4 in the morning local time, will face off.
The two front-runners will come out of the following field of five: Lionel Zinsou, out-going prime minister and candidate of the party of the out-going president Yayi Boni, backed by an alliance of two parties, including the second largest party in the country; businessmen Partrice Talon and Sebastien Ajavon, former prime minister Pascal Irenee Koupaki, and former president of the West African Development Bank Abdoulaye Bio Tchane.
It’s a tradition here for the second runner-up to endorse one of the two front-runners in return for cabinet positions or cash. A number of local newspapers are persistently speculating that businessman Patrice Talon will be the front-runner, followed by Lionel Zinsou. Several political analysts The African has spoken to have confirmed this scenario. But only the official results to be announced within 72 hours of the first round will determine the next step in what has turned out to be a messy process. Contrary to the legal provision that the voters cards be ready at least four weeks prior to the election date, thousands (if not more) of voters never got their cards. To avoid a popular uprising, the authorities had no choice but to allow the use of regular id cards in the locations where the voters cards were unavailable.
The organization of the election was flawed to a point where it was feared the hitherto peaceful nation would experience the post-election violence quite common in Sub-Saharan Africa, as some voters feared that the string of problems were indicative of the government’s plan to stage another “k.o.” victory. However, despite the late opening of some polling stations, there are no reports of violence.
Reporting by Christian Assogba