Benin Opposition Urges Protests as Elections Set to Proceed

(Bloomberg) -- Benin’s main opposition, which has been excluded from April 28 legislative elections, called for protests after the government announced that voting would proceed as planned.

The small West African nation is facing its worst political crisis in almost two decades since the commission approved the participation of two parties in the vote and excluded five others for technical reasons. The two parties are loyal to President Patrice Talon, a wealthy businessman who was elected in 2016. The opposition last month boycotted a meeting called by Talon to discuss the commission’s ruling.

“The first elections to be held under this regime will inevitably lead us to uncertainty,” Guy Mitokpe, the spokesman of an alliance of six opposition parties, told reporters late Wednesday. “Our country is at a crossroads.”

Police and paramilitary units deployed at strategic intersections Thursday in the commercial capital, Cotonou. Tens of thousands of people marched in support of the opposition on March 11 and several senior politicians have publicly condemned the commission’s decision. They include former President Nicephore Soglo, who issued a separate statement calling for protests.

Benin was among the first African countries to introduce multiparty elections in the early 1990s after protests against former strongman Mathieu Kerekou, and it’s generally had smooth transitions since.

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