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Campaigning Ends In Benin Presidential Election

Campaigning has officially closed in Benin's presidential race, with first round contenders holding evening rallies Friday. Joe Bavier is in the commercial capital Cotonou for VOA and has more on the atmosphere there as candidates launched last minute bids to win over voters.

At an evening rally for Benin presidential hopeful Adrien Houngbedji, a man wanders through the crowd of thousands playing a drum and rallying those nearby to sing along in praise of their candidate.

As the sun goes down and the rally warms up, supporters crowding into the stands begin to chant.

Later, the performances of well known artists and politicians share the stage at an event some in the audience call a meeting, but others call a concert.

One young man has painted the entire top half of his body white, with a rainbow, the symbol of his party, stretching across his chest.

In these the closing hours of the official campaign period, the port city of Cotonou has taken on a carnival mood, as more than two dozen candidates make one last push to impress voters.

Houngbedji supporter Nelson Dogbre admits not everyone in the stadium is there for the political speeches. "A lot of people here are for Adrien Houngbedji, but some of them, perhaps I, you come here, so the thing is that you are in the mood, you come here its like you're here for the party. Everything here in Africa in our country it's like a party," he said.

Across town, another candidate, Severin Adjovi is holding his own rally, complete with a mobile dance floor and D.J. mounted on the back of a truck.

But even with a group of young men dancing a blowing whistles nearby, 24-year-old Sandrin Djossou says everyone is taking this election very seriously. "It's an important moment in our country, because we are going to change once again our democracy," he said.

Saturday is officially a day when no campaigning is allowed, as voters prepare to go to the polls early Sunday. But Friday night in Cotonou, with all the rallies long over, the party is far from finished.