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Delayed Benin Legislative Election Takes Place

Parliamentary elections are under way in the western African nation of Benin. The vote was to take place last week but was delayed until Saturday, because of problems getting electoral equipment and ballots to polling stations. This time voting seems to be going smoothly in most parts of the country, as Phuong Tran reports from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Most of the more than 15,000 polls opened close to 7 a.m. in the morning as scheduled.

Pierre Sossou, an election official for the district of Zogbohoue in Benin's capital, Cotonou, says his poll opened before seven, and operations started within one hour without any problems.

But problems were reported in the southern part of the country, where hundreds of polling stations failed to open on time.

A spokesman for the National Electoral Commission, Michel Alokpo, says transportation problems delayed delivery of the ballots to some remote areas.

"You know there are some places [where the materials have to be transported] through a river," he explained. "It is difficult for them. They need to have a boat."

More than 2,100 candidates, representing 26 political parties and alliances, are competing in the election. At stake are 83 seats in the parliament.

Alfonse Gbaguidi is a writer who says he voted for the Alliance for Democratic Development.

He says he is not completely satisfied with President Boni Yayi, who has been in power for one year. He says there is a lot of work that still needs to be done, and he hopes the election will lead to better results.

Lionil Bassan, a university student, says he hopes the new legislature will pass laws that will improve how things work in Benin, but he says he is pleased with what President Yayi has done so far.

A first-time candidate in the president's coalition, Laurent Gnancadja says the president needs more support.

He says this election will prove whether people say "yes" to change and continue to support the president in his efforts.

President Yayi has said he hopes his political coalition, the Force for an Emerging Benin, will win a majority of the legislative seats so he can fulfill his campaign promise to fight, what he calls, corruption from three decades of rule under former president Mathieu Kerikou.

The major opposition to Mr. Yayi is the Party for a Renewed Democracy, which criticizes Mr. Yayi's rule as autocratic.

The electoral commission says it expects to have results from Saturday's election within days.