Benin in parliament vote after disputed poll

April 28, 2011 12:00 am

, COTONOU, Apr 28 – Benin votes in parliamentary polls on Saturday with President Boni Yayi looking to reinforce his mandate following his disputed re-election last month and a major financial scandal.

The opposition currently has the most seats in parliament with some 49 compared to 34 for Yayi and his allies in the West African nation dependent on cotton, its port and commerce with its giant neighbour Nigeria.

March 13 presidential polls won by Yayi with 53 percent of the vote had to be postponed twice because preparations were far from complete, but the electoral commission has pledged that all will be in place for Saturday.

"All the problems that had been raised and inadequacies revealed during the presidential election have been corrected," said electoral commission spokesman Honorat Adjovi.

Yayi\’s main rival in the presidential vote, Adrien Houngbedji, rejected the results, claimed massive fraud and declared victory for himself. He did not attend the president\’s swearing in.

The results showed Houngbedji with 36 percent in the former French colony of some 9.3 million people.

The coalition that backed him, Build the Nation Union, wants voters to use the parliamentary elections "to sanction the regime that stole victory from us," said Lazare Sehoueto, an official with the coalition.

Yayi spokesman Marcel de Souza said their camp hoped to see an "overwhelming majority that would confirm the presidential election results."

That would allow the parliament to "pass the reforms necessary for the development of the country."

Yayi, an economist who worked at the Central Bank of West African States, was seen as a symbol of change when he first took office in 2006, but has since been weighed down by a series of corruption scandals.

The most prominent involved an alleged Ponzi scheme by a firm he was accused of assisting.

The scheme, reminiscent of the Bernard Madoff scandal in the United States, left scores of people in financial ruin and prompted calls for Yayi to be tried for allegedly favouring the company, ICC Services. Yayi denies any wrongdoing.

Benin was also the hardest-hit by devastating West African flooding last year, according to the United Nations.

In Benin alone, floods destroyed 55,000 homes, killed tens of thousands of livestock and affected some 680,000 people, the UN said. At least 46 people were reported dead.

Houngbedji, who has run for president five times, was backed by many of the country\’s traditional political elites in the March election.


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