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Concern Over Potential Fraud Raised Ahead of Benin Polls


The last day of campaigning for Benin's presidential election opened Friday with concerns over whether the vote will live up to democratic hopes. Some fear for the country's reputation as a democratic leader in the region.

About 100 people march through the streets of Cotonou on their way to the office of the minister of the interior.

They are marching for peace, and they are calling upon the authorities of Benin to ensure that Sunday's first round presidential vote takes place without violence. But, their march is also a protest.

Since making history 16 years ago by becoming the first sub-Saharan African nation to make a peaceful transition from military rule to multi-party democracy, Benin has been widely viewed as a regional success story.

But in the run up to this year's election allegations of attempted fraud and irregularities in voter registration have grabbed headlines in the local press.

A Cotonou newspaper reported this week on the attempted theft of ballot boxes by an election worker, an incident confirmed by poll officials.

More than a million blank voter cards have not been returned to the national elections commission, raising fears that some people could use them to vote multiple times. And with voter lists yet to be distributed, some fear such fraud could go undetected.

Interior minister Mama Sika blames the electoral commission, known by its French acronym CENA.

"Myself, I sent my director to go to the CENA and ask [for] the list of electors," he said. "Since today, I have no list. It is a problem. I think the candidates have to ask where is the list."

Election officials say voting should go ahead without any problems.

In his shop in bustling central Cotonou, tailor Adelakoun Ayekoumi says, with Benin's economy struggling, the stakes in this year's election are very high. He has already been forced to work abroad to support his family. And he says, the people of Benin must be allowed to vote for real change.

We want a transparent election, he says, that will allow us to elect a president that can bring business to the country. If things do not work out this year, he says, I'm leaving the country.

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