Benin's President Talon Eyes Re-election With Few Rivals In His Path
Faizan Hashmi 8 days ago Thu 08th April 2021 | 11:10 AM
Cotonou, April 8 (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 8th Apr, 2021 ) :Benin's President Patrice Talon looks set to win re-election to a second term on Sunday in a presidential ballot critics say is already tilted in his favour after a crackdown on opponents.
A cotton tycoon first elected in 2016, Talon faces two little-known rivals with most opposition figures from the West African country either living in exile or disqualified from running in the election.
Slotted between Africa's powerhouse Nigeria and tiny neighbour Togo, Benin has seen some economic successes in five years under Talon, with improved roads, water and energy supplies. But analysts say its pluralist politics are now dimmed.
Talon has played up his economic programmes while campaigning. At the start of the pandemic he said he could not enforce public confinement because Benin lacked the means of rich countries.
In final days of campaigning, the economic capital Cotonou was adorned with blue posters of Talon and his running mate for the vice-presidency, Mariam Talata.
On the new roads, a few electoral caravans trundled along to the din of music and horns. But the usual fervour of presidential campaigns was missing.
"Since the return of the multiparty system in 1990, this is the first time the country has organised a presidential election like this: pluralist in appearance, but without choice in reality," said Expedit Ologou, a Beninese political scientist.
"And where the re-election of the president seems only a formality." - Marxism to crackdown - Following 17 years of military rule along Marxist-Leninist lines, the former French colony opened up into a multi-party democracy in 1990.
Still fresh in the memories of many is the political crisis that followed a disputed parliamentary election in April 2019. Tensions erupted into mass opposition protests that were broken up when security forces opened fire with live rounds.
Supporters of Talon say the country's democratic credentials are intact and that Sunday's elections will go ahead without any problems.
"Even though his record is very positive, an election is never won in advance," said Talon's communications director Wilfried Houngbedji. "An election must be a party." Analysts say low turnout could be a real issue.
"Yes there are risks of tensions, but Beninese have in mind the violent political crisis that followed the 2019 parliamentary elections," analyst Hounkpe said, "and many are afraid."cma/pma/jz/kjl