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Benin Opens Presidential Election


Election workers prepare electoral cards for the Benin's Presidential election in Yenawa, eastern Cotonou (File Photo - March 2, 2011)

Election workers prepare electoral cards for the Benin's Presidential election in Yenawa, eastern Cotonou (File Photo - March 2, 2011)

Voters in Benin are casting ballots in a twice-delayed presidential election.

President Boni Yayi is facing 12 challengers, most notably opposition leader Adrien Houngbedji, who the president defeated in 2006.

Sunday's poll had been postponed twice to give electoral officials more time to register voters and set up polling stations.

The opposition says hundreds of thousands of people were left off the voter lists, despite a late registration drive Wednesday through Saturday.

Witnesses in the commercial capital of Cotonou say many polling stations opened late Sunday because of the late arrival of voting materials.

President Yayi won the 2006 vote by a landslide but has grown increasingly unpopular as a result of a Ponzi scheme (financial fraud) that cost more than 100,000 people their life savings. Photos showing Yayi next to figures implicated in the scandal have led some to accuse the president of being involved himself.

Benin is also still recovering from massive flooding last October that left some 150,000 people homeless.

But some analysts say Yayi is still likely to prevail in the election because the opposition has not gathered around a single candidate.

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