…By Paul Ejime
The Benin Constititional Court has certified President Patrice Talon’s reelection with more than 86% of the vote in the April 11 election overshadowed by violence and repression of opponents.
The court’s announcement on Thursday coincided with the arrest of another opposition leader Prof Joel Aivo on alleged election-related charges and a statement by a civil society election platform, which put the voter turnout at 26.47% as against the more than 50% announced by the Court and the national Electoral Commission, CENA.
Maryse Ahanhanzo, an official of the election platform said the 26.47% turn-out was based on field data collected by its observers across the country. She also said that her platform and CENA had reported similar figures in previous elections, including in 2016, when Talon swept to power as well as in the parliamentary and municipal votes of 2019 and 2020 respectively.
Prof Aivo was among opposition leaders shut out of the April 11 presidential contest. The others either quit, were forced into exile or detained, including a female candidate Reckya Madougou.
Protests were banned, but in the run-up to the election, at least five people were killed, including an 80-year-old mother of one of the presidential aspirants during a raid on his son’s residence by security forces, and during clashes between demonstrators and riot police.
In its preliminary declaration, the regional economic grouping, ECOWAS described the electoral process as transparent in areas covered by its 105-member Observation Mission led by Sierra Leone’s former President Ernest Koroma.
However, civil society and rights groups have dismissed the election as a sham. Several videos have also emerged on social media showing alleged electotal irregularities, including ballot stamping.
The results announced by the constitutional court showed that Talon received
1,982,534 votes, followed by Corentin-Agossa with 503,685 and Alassane-Hounkpe 261,096
The court put the voter turnout at 50.63%, or 2,297,315 votes cast, out of 4,802,303 registered voters from an estimated 12 million people in the cotton-rich former West African French colony scarred by poverty and youth unemployment.
Talon, a businessman, had started very well.
But there is the danger that resentment to his u-turn to serve only one term of five years and the controversial electoral law changes he pushed through in 2018 could plunge Benin into major political crisis and shatter its erstwhile stability.