, COTONOU, Mar 30 – Benin\’s constitutional court on Wednesday rejected opposition appeals over the results of this month\’s disputed presidential vote and declared incumbent Boni Yayi re-elected.
In its decision, the court said it had rejected all appeals filed over the results showing Yayi won with 53 percent and "proclaims Mr. Boni Yayi definitively elected president of the republic."
"The constitutional court says that the term of Mr. Boni Yayi, elected president of the republic, takes effect beginning April 6, 2011 …," it said.
Yayi\’s main challenger, Adrien Houngbedji, rejected the results of the March 13 election, alleging fraud and proclaiming himself the winner in the small West African nation. The results showed Houngbedji with 36 percent.
Tensions have risen since the vote, which had previously been postponed twice because preparations were not complete, with police firing tear gas to break up an opposition protest in the economic capital Cotonou last week.
Both Houngbedji and Abdoulaye Bio Tchane, who had been seen as a third major candidate but who finished far behind at six percent, filed appeals with the court, alleging Yayi benefited from illegal voting stations. Houngbedji has also alleged ballot stuffing.
Yayi also filed an appeal, arguing he won with a larger margin.
The court rejected the three candidates\’ appeals, saying they failed to prove their allegations.
Houngbedji\’s next move will now be closely watched in the ex-French colony of some 9.2 million people, with the president\’s camp having called on him to concede defeat.
There have been sporadic protests of several hundred people both before and after the vote, but it remained unclear whether such demonstrations could spread.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon\’s special representative for west Africa, Said Djinnit, expressed concern over the post-electoral situation last week.
Voting day passed calmly despite chaotic preparations that had caused two earlier postponements of the ballot.
The first time use of an electronic voter register had led to opposition allegations that more than a million people had been left off it — a figure others said was exaggerated.
A mop-up voter registration was to be held on Wednesday and Thursday before the election, but was extended into Saturday — the day before the vote — when crowds mobbed sign-up centres and equipment broke down.
Other issues had also led to the two earlier poll delays, including failure to distribute electoral cards on time and designate and train polling station agents.
Houngbedji, 69, running in his fifth presidential election, had pushed for a third postponement of the ballot, arguing that voter registration should continue.
The United Nations and African Union backed the second delay of the vote to allow preparations to move ahead, but did not join calls for a third postponement.
Yayi, a 58-year-old economist, was seen as a symbol of change when he took office in 2006 in the country dependent on cotton cultivation and its port, but has since been weighed down by corruption scandals.
Houngbedji was supported by many of the country\’s traditional political elites. He will not be able to run in future presidential elections since the constitution sets the age limit at 70.