/ 23 April 2008

Observers clear Benin’s elections

Local and municipal elections in Benin passed off without evidence of fraud but with some functional problems, the head of a regional observer team said on Wednesday.

Moussa Tapsoba, leader of the monitors from the Economic Community of West African States, singled out in particular the lack of ballot papers and other materials.

He recommended that the poll be rerun in places where people had been unable to cast their votes.

About four million voters in Benin went to the polls on Sunday in local elections that were seen as a test of President Boni Yayi’s administration two years after he took office.

But many polling stations were late opening, and in some cases voting papers contained errors.

Yayi promised reforms to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

About 26 000 candidates, from a dozen political parties or independents, were contesting 1 435 seats on communal and municipal councils as well as thousands of posts as their village or neighbourhood representatives.

More than 2 000 domestic and international observers were accredited to ensure a fair vote.

However, because of the confusion officials were unable to provide a turnout figure or say when results would be declared.

Nestled between Togo and Nigeria, with Burkina Faso and Niger to its north, and with a population of 8,3-million, Benin is considered one of Africa’s most stable democracies. It gained independence from France in August 1960. — Sapa-AFP