The Beninese vote Sunday to elect their president after a campaign without fervor and marked by violence in the center of the country where demonstrators were protesting against a ballot confiscated by the outgoing head of state Patrice Talon.
The re-election of this former businessman who came to power in 2016 and who committed this West African country to an authoritarian turn leaves little doubt: his opponents are two candidates almost unknown to the public, former deputies Alassane Soumanou and Corentin Kohoué .
The results are expected to be announced on Monday or Tuesday.
Most of the opponents are either in exile abroad, or condemned by the courts, or prevented from participating because of the new Electoral Code and institutional reform.
Long hailed for its democratic vitality, Benin experienced a lackluster or fervent campaign in the South, while in the North serious violence broke out.
“The particularity of this election is that it takes place in an atmosphere of tension and violence,” observed the electoral platform of Beninese civil society organizations.
Since Tuesday, residents of several towns in the center and north of the country, strongholds of the opposition, have blocked hundreds of cars and transporters by erecting roadblocks.
On Thursday the army dismantled the roadblocks and cleared the way, using live ammunition. At least two civilians died and five others were injured during this intervention.
“Soldiers who shoot our children, it looks like we are in a movie. If the president has problems with his opponents, he spares the poor people,” laments Philomène M’Betti Tepa, a resident of Boukoumbe, a town of the Northwest.
On Friday, the representatives in Benin of the European Union, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States called in a joint statement “to stop the violence” wishing for a “free, peaceful and transparent “.
According to the Autonomous National Electoral Commission (Cena) the roadblocks caused a delay in the deployment of electoral materials in the North. But “there is no reason for this election not to take place,” he said.
Nearly 5 million voters are expected in 15,531 polling stations. The counting of the ballots must begin as soon as the polling stations close at 4:00 p.m. (3:00 p.m. GMT).
In this election, the Beninese will elect a vice-president for the first time.
Patrice Talon is the only one to have chosen as a candidate for this post a woman, Mariam Talata, a 57-year-old philosophy professor who is as charismatic as she is feminist.
In addition to the absence of a strong opposition, the president can count for his re-election on a good economic record: the production of cotton, one of the main resources of the country, has increased sharply, petty corruption has almost been eradicated, and many roads were built.
And despite the coronavirus, the country has managed to maintain positive growth in 2020.
“I support President Talon because we had so many problems before. The water and electricity cut off all the time, today it’s much better,” says Ulrich Adjalla.
Without a job since studying sociology, this 28-year-old Beninese is convinced that President Talon “will create jobs for the youth”.
Another 38% of the population lives below the poverty line, and youth unemployment is skyrocketing. For his next five-year term, President Talon promises, “development is it”, as he insisted throughout his campaign, and during his last meeting Friday in the South.
In front of a crowd of supporters, he promised a “KO victory” in the first round.
“But this knockout is not enough. For our country, our harmony and the image of the country abroad, everyone has to come out to vote, then the knockout will be even more resounding,” he said. launched.