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Voting Ends In Benin Presidential Election


Ballot counting has begun after the close of polls in Sunday's presidential election in Benin. Despite a late start at many voting centers and a lack of basic materials, polling went smoothly.

Election workers began counting ballots soon after polling stations closed Sunday evening. Voting centers were to close across the country at four o'clock local time. But in many parts of Benin voting ended later to compensate for late openings.

As officials began the initial count at one center in Cotonou, dozens of people watched through windows and doorways as results were tallied on a blackboard.

One young man, who has waited around for hours after voting expresses the sentiment of many in Benin.

"According to democracy in Benin, I think its well understood," he said. "And we work very clearly and everything is okay."

Voting got off to a difficult start Sunday morning. Many voting stations remain closed hours after seven o'clock opening time. In many cases, materials never arrived.

At one voting center in the capital Porto Novo, local poll workers complained to observers from the national elections commission.

They say notebooks, ink, and other basic items meant to have been provided by the commission never arrived. Elsewhere, election workers had to improvise voting booths.

Polling coordinator Francis Glieger says the problems were minor, and, on the whole, he was impressed by Sunday's vote.

"Everything is great today," said Francis Glieger. "We have some difficulties, but its not important. What is important is the fact that many people are voting here and that we have good results. That is what is important."

Incumbent President Mathieu Kerekou, who has ruled Benin for all but five years since 1972, and former President Nicephore Soglo, were both banned by the constitution from running because of their age. Twenty six candidates contested the first round.

Results are expected to be announced by Wednesday. If no single candidate wins an outright majority, a runoff election is due to take place in two weeks time.