Benin Opposition Rejects Results Of Parliament Vote

Democrats Party leader Eric Houndete denounced "flagrant" ballot box stuffing, rigging, and vote buying by the two pro-government parties.

Members of the observers and the CENA (Commission Electorale Nationale Autonome) check the number of votes following the legislative elections at the public primary school, Charles Guillot de Zongo in Cotonou on January 8, 2023. (Photo by Yanick Folly / AFP)

Benin’s main opposition said Thursday it rejected the results of this week’s parliamentary election, claiming vote buying and fraud handed allies of President Patrice Talon a majority of legislature seats.Pro-Talon Republican Bloc and Progressive Union for Renewal parties together won 81 seats in the 109-member parliament with opposition Democrats gaining 28 seats, according to preliminary results on Wednesday.

In an early Thursday press conference, Democrats party leader Eric Houndete denounced “flagrant” ballot box stuffing, rigging and vote buying by the two pro-government parties, without providing immediate evidence.

“The Democrats party rejects this result, which does not reflect the will of the people to make our party the first political force in our country,” Houndete said.

“The scores attributed to the Siamese parties (the two pro-Talon parties) could only be achieved thanks to the schemes put in place to distort the democratic game.”

Sunday’s vote was a key test for Benin, where Talon has promoted a programme of economic and political development, but critics say his mandate has eroded a once thriving multi-party democracy.

The election marked the return of the opposition to parliament in the West African nation, following a four-year absence and for the first time since Talon came to power in 2016.

In 2019, opposition parties were effectively barred from participating in a legislative ballot due to stricter of election rules, resulting in a parliament dominated by Talon supporters.

The vote was marred by deadly clashes in an opposition stronghold, historic low turnout and an internet blackout, rare events in Benin.

Most of Talon’s key opponents have also been jailed or gone into exile after the cotton magnate came to office.