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Legislative Election Delayed in Benin


Electoral problems in Benin have pushed back the legislative election. Originally set for this Sunday, the constitutional court has agreed to the national electoral commission's request to delay voting until next Saturday, because of problems gathering voters' names and printing ballots. But opposition candidates are worried the extra time still does not guarantee a fair election. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's West Africa Bureau in Dakar.

Officials in Benin gave several reasons for postponing the elections until next Saturday. They said ballots had not yet been printed, voting equipment was not in place, and election workers have not been trained.

Electoral commission spokesman Michel Alokpo says in past elections workers at polling stations were not properly trained and there were instances of people who voted 10 times at different stations.

"We have not trained the people who need to [work] at the [voting polls]," he said. "We are going to train them next week."

Roger Gbegnonvi is former president of the Benin chapter of Transparency International, a German-based non-profit that monitors corruption. He says there are so many candidates that he is more worried about voter fraud this time than in previous elections in Benin. More than 2,000 are competing for 83 legislative positions.

Gbegnonvi says the large number of candidates increases the risk of fraud. He says there have been many voting problems in the past in Benin when there were many fewer candidates. In last year's presidential election, some ballot boxes were never found.

First-time opposition candidate Julien Gandonou from the Party for a New Democracy is upset about the delay.

"They are supposed to do everything to make that election happen on the right day, not to delay," he said. "In our country, every time we want to do an election, they always have some election problems."

He says, given all the problems, he is not confident they can be solved in a week.

President Thomas Boni Yayi, who was elected last year, hopes the election will give his coalition a parliamentary majority, which he says he needs to strengthen his fight against corruption in the West African country. He blames corruption for an assassination attempt against him last week.