, COTONOU, May 2 – The party of President Thomas Boni Yayi has won Benin’s parliamentary elections with 32 seats out of 83 but failed to secure an absolute majority, according to the first partial results released Friday.
The small west African nation voted Sunday in polls seen as a key test for Boni Yayi, whom the opposition accuses of planning to try to cling to power after his second term ends next year.
Boni Yayi’s Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin party (FCBE) likely won 32 seats, independent electoral commission president Emmanuel Tiando told reporters.
The two main opposition parties, the Union Makes the Nation and the Democratic Renewal Party, were on target for 15 and 10 seats respectively.
The partial results must then be sent to the Constitutional Court, which must validate and publish them within eight days after the election, or Monday at the latest.
While the FCBE did not win an expected absolute majority, analysts say the opposition is so fragmented and unstructured that it will have to form alliances to carry any weight in the national assembly.
In all, about 20 parties contested the parliamentary elections in the country of 10 million, with an electorate of 4.4 million.
Turnout was 65.92 percent, according to the electoral commission.
The campaign was marked by heated debate over a possible constitutional amendment that would allow the president to run for a third term.
Boni Yayi, who has led the small west African nation since 2006, has always denied planning to run again next year.
The president, who likes to present himself as a “Mr Clean”, has announced plans to reform the constitution to end impunity for corruption by strengthening the justice system.
But the opposition insists the real motive of his constitutional amendment is to scrap a two-term limit on presidential mandates so Boni Yayi can run again in 2016.
After voting Sunday, Boni Yayi said he would no longer be “a candidate for anything” in the future.
A large majority would probably have allowed him a freer hand to carry out the constitutional amendments he wants before the end of his term.
His party held a majority until recently when several MPs defected to join opposition parties a few weeks before the elections.