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Benin Court Confirms President's Re-Election


Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (R) and President of Benin Republic Boni Yayi chats during their meeting at the emergency summit of Heads of States of ECOWAS on the political crisis in Ivory Coast in Abuja 24 Dec 2010.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (R) and President of Benin Republic Boni Yayi chats during their meeting at the emergency summit of Heads of States of ECOWAS on the political crisis in Ivory Coast in Abuja 24 Dec 2010.

Benin's constitutional court has confirmed the re-election of President Boni Yayi in this month's presidential poll, despite accusations of fraud by opposition leader, Adrien Houngbedji, who also claimed to have won the poll.

The court has certified the results of the country's March 13 election, declaring incumbent President Boni Yayi the winner with 53 percent of the vote.

Mr. Yayi defeated long-time opposition leader Adrien Houngbedji and 11 other candidates in a poll that was twice delayed after numerous logistical problems.

Mr. Houngbedji had previously accused the ruling party of fraud. The 69-year-old has run in every presidential election since the country moved to a multi-party democracy in 1990. This was his final race, because the constitution limits a candidate's age to 70.

A researcher with research organization Eurasia Group, James Clinton Francis, says Mr. Houngbedji is likely upset over the end of his political career.

“There is a lot of infighting going on within opposition parties, and then within the opposition alliances. So I think there are a lot of people within his party that are looking for him to go; they want to bring in fresh blood, new faces. Someone, you know, who can unite the whole country,” Francis said.

Benin's vote comes at a time when elections in Africa are being scrutinized carefully, due to the post-election crisis in Ivory Coast.

West Africa's regional block, ECOWAS, said Benin's polls were mainly free and transparent, and Francis says neighboring countries want to ensure a smooth transition. “Goodluck Jonathan, president of Nigeria of course, but also the chair of ECOWAS, has called for Beninois to respect the outcomes of the polls. He does not want to see an Ivory Coast-like situation occurring in the country,” he said.

President Yayi will face a multitude of challenges in his second term.

Benin is still reeling from a Ponzi scheme exposed last year that affected an estimated 2.5-million Beninois, about a quarter of the population. Many people lost their life savings and some accused President Yayi of involvement.

He will not only have to regain credibility to the public, but will also need to move forward with infrastructure and development projects to help rebuild the country after the devastating floods of October 2010.

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