Patrice Talon in an armchair, unopposed

Patrice Talon in an armchair, unopposed
Patrice Talon in an armchair, unopposed
The re-election of this former oil magnate who came to power in 2016 and who has committed this West African country to an authoritarian turn leaves little doubt: his opponents are two candidates almost unknown to the public, former deputies Alassane Soumanou and Corentin Kohoué.

Both are taxed “puppet applications” by most of the Beninese opponents, who were not allowed to appear.

“Since the return of the multiparty system in 1990, this is the first time that the country has organized a presidential election like this: pluralist in appearance, but without choice in reality“, explains to AFP Expedit Ologou, Beninese political scientist.

Major opposition figures are in exile or sentenced to ineligibility. The others saw their candidacy rejected by the Electoral Commission because they did not have a sufficient number of sponsorships (154 of the 159 Beninese elected members belong to the presidential movement).

Country cut in half

Since Monday evening, part of the Beninese of the center and north of the country, stronghold of the opposition, rose up to denounce “a non-inclusive electionThey have erected dams on the main road that connects the north to the economic capital Cotonou in the south.

“On April 11 nobody is sure what will happen. At this rate, we do not know if the northern part of the country will really be able to vote,” underlines Mr. Olougou.

In the south of the country, the campaign is progressing normally, almost smoothly, and some Beninese even deplore a campaign without fervor.

Cotonou is covered with azure blue posters of President Talon and his running mate at vice-presidency Mariam Talata. The posters with old-fashioned graphics of the other two candidates are present in limited numbers.

“Development is it”

President “very appealing to the educated youth and the elite of the country”, Mathias Hounkpe of the Open Society initiative for West Africa (Osiwa) told AFP.

After five years at the head of the country, Patrice Talon can boast of a very good economic record: he cleaned up public finances, considerably improved the business climate and digitized many public services.

During his five-year term, cotton production, one of the country’s main resources, increased sharply, petty corruption was almost eradicated, and many roads were built.

Despite the coronavirus, the country managed to maintain positive growth in 2020. At the start of the pandemic it refused to confine its population claiming that his country did not have the means of rich countries.

Even if its record is very positive, an election is never won in advance ”, tempers the director of communication of Mr. Talon, Wilfried Houngbédji.“We hope that the people will vote en masse.”

This is the real stake of this ballot for the president, “not so much to be re-elected in the first round, but to be so with a high turnout”, according to Mr. Hounkpe.

Or the president “is not very popular among the working classes and the rural areas”, he adds.

In Benin, 38% of the population still lives below the poverty line, and they have not seen their living conditions drastically change.

So for the next five years, the president who initially said he wanted to serve a single term before changing his mind, promises it: “development, that’s it”, according to its campaign slogan.

“I have to work for the whole country. The work started will come to an end. There will no longer be a region where there is a lack of electricity, water and internet connection.“, he promised them last Monday during a meeting in the south of the country.

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