Pro-government parties in Benin gained a majority of seats in parliament, according to the country’s constitutional court on Thursday, in a vote that marked the return of the opposition after a four-year hiatus.
The peaceful vote on Sunday was a test for the West African state, where President Patrice Talon has encouraged prosperity but critics say democracy has slowly eroded under his watch.
It was the first election in Benin, in which the opposition took part since Talon took power in 2016.
According to Razaki Amouda Issifou, president of the constitutional court, parties supporting Talon, the Republican Bloc, and the Progressive Union for Renewal won 81 out of 109 seats in parliament. According to him, the opposition Democrats gained 28 seats, and voting turnout was 37.79 percent. The election was open to seven political parties, including three affiliated with the opposition.
According to a proportional system, only parties with more than 10% of the vote are eligible for parliamentary seats. Earlier on Thursday, Democrats party head Eric Houndete accused the two pro-government parties of “flagrant” ballot box stuffing, rigging, and vote buying.
“The Democrats party rejects this result, which does not reflect the will of the people to make our party the first political force in our country,” Houndete stated.
Results can be challenged for 10 days after the official announcement of the results.
Due to tougher election laws in 2019, opposition parties were virtually prevented from participating in a legislative ballot, resulting in a parliament dominated by government loyalists. This election was characterized by deadly violence in an opposition stronghold, a historic low turnout, and an internet outage, all of which are unusual in Benin.
Most of Talon’s opponents have been imprisoned or fled to exile since he initially took government, and he was re-elected in 2021.
The legislative elections this year in Benin were critical for the opposition in preparing for the presidential elections in 2026 when candidates will need legislator support to be registered.
Parliament also has a say in who sits on the constitutional court, which rules on election disputes. Its term expires this year, and four new justices will be appointed by lawmakers, with three selected by the president. The Democrats also stated that they will seek to pass an amnesty law in parliament in order to liberate imprisoned comrades and allow exiles to return home.
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