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Benin's President, Opposition Clash Over Election Results

Men and women stand in line to cast their ballots at the city of Cotonou, Benin, March 13, 2011

Benin's President Boni Yayi has claimed victory in the first round of presidential elections, but his top rival is disputing the results.

A spokesman for Yayi says the president won re-election by a large margin over opposition leader Adrien Houngbedji, based on unofficial results from Sunday's election.

But Houngbedji says he is ahead in several major districts, and that he expects the election to be decided by a second-round runoff vote.

A candidate must win more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.

President Yayi faced 12 challengers in Sunday's poll, most notably Houngbedji, whom the president defeated in the 2006 election.

On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended Benin for a "peaceful and orderly" first round of presidential elections. Ban said Benin was setting a positive example by organizing polls without major incident.

He also called on the candidates to respect the final results, which have not been released.

Benin used an electronic voting list for the first time in this year's vote. The opposition says hundreds of thousands of people were left off the list despite a last-minute registration drive.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.