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Benin Awaits Election Results as Fraud Allegations Mount


Benin is awaiting results from presidential elections, as allegations of fraud are mounting. Sunday's vote started in confusion when the outgoing president said the process was lacking in transparency, but so far there is little evidence of any wrongdoing.

Officials from Benin's national elections commission say results from the first round vote are likely to be handed over to the constitutional court late Thursday or early Friday.

But in the days since Sunday's presidential election, fraud allegations that dogged the process even before the country's four million voters went to the polls continue to grow, threatening to tarnish Benin's image as a bastion of stable democracy in the region.

Two of the 26 candidates who contested the first round want voting to be redone in parts of Benin. Others have denounced administrative problems on election day that led to a lack of voting materials at many polling stations.

Supporters of the apparent front-runner, the former head of the West African development bank, Yayi Boni, accuse the government of intimidation. Still, social activist and Boni supporter Paul Tevoedjre says Boni's supporters will continue to respect the peaceful atmosphere in which the elections took place.

"We don't want violence. We don't want bloodshed," he said. "We are doing everything [so] that there is no way we want bloodshed in Benin, especially for elections."

Security forces blocked Boni supporters from holding a news conference Tuesday. Outgoing President Mathieu Kerekou, speaking after casting his vote Sunday, said the election was marked by a lack of transparency.

However, international elections observers have called the vote free and fair. And Tevoedjre says he is not surprised by the this week's events.

"You know that those who are in power don't want to leave the power," said Tevoedjre. "It was the sugar in their mouths that was so sweet. And now, they are trying to find out the way they can try to maintain the old regime."

In spite of the early problems Sunday, which in many cases caused polling stations to open hours after the scheduled start times, the polls were held without much of the partisan violence that regularly mars elections in the region.

And even as the debate over fraud allegations and election transparency continues, local journalist Gerard Guedegbe says the people of Benin have remained calm.

"We cannot say that there is some tension," he said. "Though of course there is very hot debate on politics and all this, because, since yesterday, some candidates, which are likely to win the election, have started negotiating with some potential candidates to get support."

A 48-hour protest window follows the announcement of first round results. A second round will be required two weeks later, if no single candidate wins an outright majority.

Mr. Kerekou, who has been president for all but five years in the past three decades, was barred from running because of a constitutional age limit and a ban on seeking a third elected term.

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