UN Asks Benin for Restraint After ‘High-Handed’ Protest Response

(Bloomberg) -- The United Nations urged the authorities in Benin to exercise restraint after security forces fired on crowds protesting against disputed legislative elections.

Supporters of former leader Thomas Boni Yayi held a second day of demonstrations Thursday in Cotonou, the capital, demanding the annulment of the April 28 vote in which only two parties loyal to incumbent President Patrice Talon were allowed to compete. Yayi last month called for a boycott of the vote that mainly served to strengthen Talon’s grip on power.

Crowds blocked roads with burning tires and wooden planks near Yayi’s house, while throwing stones at security forces. At least one protester was killed by live ammunition, Agence France-Presse reported, citing people it didn’t identify.

“We note with concern the ongoing tensions and unrest, resulting in the destruction of property and high-handed response from the security forces,” Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said by email. “We call on all Beninese stakeholders to exercise maximum restraint and to seek solutions to their differences through dialogue.”

The small West African nation of about 11 million people is facing its worst political crisis in almost two decades since the electoral commission in March blocked five opposition parties on technical grounds. Voters mostly boycotted the ballot, in which the Progressive Union party took 47 seats in the 83-member parliament and the Republic Bloc the remaining 36 seats, according to results released by the Constitutional Court late Thursday.

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