Benin holds vote with no opposition candidates

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A woman arrives to vote at the Agla East State primary school in Cotonou on 28 April 2019 - BeinImage source, AFP
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Benin has been known as one of Africa's most stable democracies

People in Benin are voting for a new parliament but without a single opposition candidate taking part.

The electoral authorities ruled last month that only two parties - both loyal to President Patrice Talon - met the requirements to take part.

New electoral laws mean a party had to pay about $424,000 (£328,000) to field a list for the 83-seat parliament.

Internet access has been restricted with social media and messaging apps blocked in the West African nation.

Five million people are registered to vote in the country, known as one of Africa's most stable democracies.

'Fuelling turmoil'

Rights activists have criticised a ban and crackdown on peaceful protests by those angered by the opposition's exclusion as well as the arrests of political activists and journalists.

"Banning peaceful protests and detaining those who speak up against the exclusion of opposition parties from the legislative election will only fuel political turmoil."

Last week, security forces fired tear gas as two former presidents - Nicéphore Soglo and Thomas Boni Yayi - addressed an impromptu demonstration about the elections in the main city of Cotonou.

Image source, Reuters
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President Talon, dubbed "the cotton king", came to power in 2016 promising free-market reforms

Five years ago voters in Benin, which introduced multi-party elections in the 1990s, could chose from 20 parties for the 83 seats in parliament, AFP news agency reports.

President Talon, a former businessman known as the "king of cotton", came to office in 2016 on a modernist ticket.

He says the electoral reforms were intended to bring together the country's several hundred political parties into streamlined blocs.

He has also overseen laws barring health workers from striking and limiting strikes by other civil servants or government workers to 10 days a year.

Image source, AFP
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Scores of motorbike taxi drivers were amongst those who went to hear former two presidents last week call for a delay in the poll

Correspondents say many people had expected him to postpone the vote to give the opposition time to meet the new requirements.

But in a national address on 11 April, President Talon said that he did not have the power to interfere in the electoral process.

On Sunday morning, voter turnout was slow in Cotonou, AFP says.

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