Beninese President Patrice Talon was re-elected with 86% of the vote, according to provisional results announced Tuesday evening by the Electoral Commission, in a poll where the head of state was facing virtually unknown opposition candidates.
“The duo Patrice Talon and Mariam Talata (vice-presidential candidate at his side) obtained in the first round the majority of votes cast,” said Geneviève Boko Nadjo, the vice-president of the Autonomous National Electoral Commission (CENA).
She also said that the turnout was 50.17%.
For their part, observers from ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) said they had noted “a low voter turnout” followed by “a slight improvement,” and those of the International Organization of la Francophonie (OIF), noted a “relatively low voter mobilization throughout the day.
The Constitutional Court will have to verify these figures in the next few days and will pronounce the final results.
Patrice Talon, a wealthy businessman who made his fortune in cotton, has been accused of taking Benin in an authoritarian direction and of having no opposition in Parliament, the Constitutional Court or in the communes, almost all of which have been won by the ruling party.
The opposition has not yet reacted to the announcement of this expected victory, but the opponent Alassane Soumanou, running against Mr. Talon and virtually unknown to the general public, had denounced “ballot box stuffing” and a non-transparent election.
Reacting to his accusations and to videos of fraud posted on social networks, Alain Orounla, the government spokesman, assured Tuesday, shortly before the announcement of the results, that “the goal (of the perpetrators of fraud) was really to discredit the electoral process after failing in their project of destabilization of the country”, and assured that they would be prosecuted.
Violence broke out last week and left at least two people dead in Savè, in the north-central region, the stronghold of former president Thomas Boni Yayi, a major political and economic opponent of the current head of state.
The election was canceled in the neighboring towns of Tchaourou, Bantè and Houesse, announced the CENA, estimating that it could not be held in good conditions.
According to an AFP journalist on the spot, the polling stations remained empty all day Sunday. Ballot boxes were sometimes burned by unknown persons and people stayed at home after several days of tension and violence.
The re-election of President Patrice Talon in the first round is no surprise, as the major opposition figures are either in exile, in prison, ineligible or prevented from participating in the election.
Opponents had called for a boycott of the election, denouncing it as a foregone conclusion, with the president “facing himself”.