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Vote Count Underway in Benin Presidential Elections

Presidential candidate, Benin prime minister Lionel Zinsou, left, casts his ballot during the election in Cotonou, March 6, 2016.

Benin began counting votes after an election Sunday to choose a successor to President Thomas Boni Yayi, who is stepping down after two terms, leaving 33 candidates to compete for power in the West African country.

Boni Yayi is leaving office after the legally mandated two terms, reinforcing Benin's reputation as a model of democracy on the troubled continent, where many leaders are revising their countries' constitution so they can remain in power.

He told reporters as he cast his ballot that he is leaving behind a unified Benin.

The candidates include Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou, who is backed by Boni Yayi and the ruling party, and Patrice Talon, a wealthy businessman who made his fortune exporting cotton, Benin's major product. Zinsou has faced criticism for his ties to France, where he was born and has spent most of his life.

If no candidate wins a clear majority, a run-off election will be held in two weeks.

More than 4.7 million voters were expected at about 13,600 polling stations in Benin.

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