One dead as Benin protesters clash with security forces over elections

'Talon out': Benin President Patrice Talon has faced protests over free-market reforms and changes to the electoral code. AFP/Yanick Folly

'Talon out': Benin President Patrice Talon has faced protests over free-market reforms and changes to the electoral code. AFP/Yanick Folly

During the mayhem, businesses were torched and the windows of government buildings smashed.

A woman taking part in protests against the exclusion of opposition parties in last Sunday’s parliamentary polls in Benin has died following clashes with security forces as they waded into crowds of protesters and forcibly broke them up.

On Thursday, police and soldiers in Benin’s largest city Cotonou used firearms and water cannons to break up the protests which began on Wednesday as people erected makeshift barricades of burning tyres and called for President Patrice Talon to step down, Al Jazeera reported.

The protests erupted only hours after initial results on Wednesday showed a record low turnout for the election after large numbers of voters boycotted the poll which offered no opposition candidate to choose from. Two parties both aligned with Talon offered 83 new candidates to be elected to parliament.

The protesters, supporters of former president Thomas Boni Yayi, who urged them to boycott the ballot, erected makeshift barriers of burning tyres and chanted slogans against Talon.

During the mayhem, businesses were torched and the windows of government buildings smashed.

One of the country’s largest cotton factories – a sector in which Talon made his fortune before entering politics – was set on fire.

Violence was also reported in the town of Kandi, some 620 kilometres to the north.

The inability of opposition parliamentarians to run in the poll followed a decision by the country’s electoral commission to bar opposition parties from standing because they were unable to meet strict criteria under a new election law to field candidates.

– African News Agency

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