Talon re-elected with 86.36% vote in Benin election marred by repression of opponents
By Paul Ejime
As widely expected, the Benin Republic electoral commission, CENA on Tuesday declared incumbent President Patrice Talon victorious with 86.36% of the vote in Sunday’s election overshadowed by violence, with several rivals arrested, detained, quit or forced into exile.
Protests are banned, but at least two people were killed in clashes between anti-government demonstrators and riot police in opposition strongholds in the run-up to the election.
One presidential candidate also had his 80-year-old mother killed when security forces raided his home.
Talon’s closest rival in the April 11 election dismissed as a sham by civil society groups is Alassane Djemba-Hounkpe, who received 11.29% of the vote.
Corentin Kohoue-Agossa came a distant third with 2.35%.
Turnout was generally low especially in the traumatized opposition strongholds, but CENA put the overall figure at 50.17%.
One of Talon’s main opposition figures barred from participating in the process is Madam Reckya Madougou, Benin’s first female presidential candidate and former minister for Microfinance, Youth and Women Empowerment and Justice, under Talon’s predecessor Boni Yayi.
She was arrested in March and along with several other Talon opponents either quit, forced into exile or are facing trial for offences ranging from assassination plot, terrorism or economic crimes.
Talon’s critics dismiss most of the charges against his opponents as politically motivated.
Talon, a cotton tycoon, succeeded Yayi Boni in 2016 and had pledged to serve for only one term of five years. But he backtracked and pushed through controversial reforms to the electoral law with conditions that are difficult or impossible for opposition candidates to meet.
He has recorded some economic gains, but Benin still reels under poverty and high youth unemployment, with rights groups accusing him of authoritarian repression and undermining democracy.