Benin’s constitutional court on Thursday approved the provisional results of this week’s election giving President Patrice Talon a landslide victory after he faced only two little-known opponents.
Talon won 86.3 percent in the April 11 election that critics said was stacked in his favour, after a crackdown on opposition leaders left most of them exiled or disqualified from running in the ballot.
The court decision on Thursday came shortly before another Talon opponent, Joel Aivo, one of those barred from running in the ballot, was taken in for questioning by police, one of his close associates said.
The constitutional court said it had cleared the preliminary results and any appeals could be made in the next five days, after which it will approve a definitive tally of ballots.
“The election on April 11, 2021 was regular, sincere and transparent,” the court’s president Joseph Djogbenou said.
He confirmed results showing Talon had received the absolute majority of votes and was re-elected in the first round.
Talon, 62, appears free of major challenges for now, as his major rivals are sidelined in a West African country once praised as a beacon of multi-party democracy.
After his election victory, Talon took a hard line, vowing to crack down on perpetrators of pre-election violence during opposition protests that blocked roads in the centre and north of the country.
– Demonstrations broken up –
Opposition leader Aivo was called in for questioning by judicial police on Thursday, though the reasons for the summons were not immediately clear.
“I don’t know exactly when he was summoned, but right now he is at a hearing with the judicial police,” one of Aivo’s associates said.
Judicial authorities did not make any immediate statement.
Another Benin opposition leader who was barred from contesting the elections was detained last month.
Reckya Madougou was arrested on accusations she plotted to undermine the election with terrorist actions, a charge her lawyer dismissed as politically motivated.
In the lead-up to the election, two people were killed by gunfire.
Five more were wounded last week when troops opened fire in the air with live rounds to clear an opposition protest blockading a major highway in the centre of the country.
Government officials say security forces responded after they came under fire.
Once hailed for its vibrant pluralism, critics say Benin has veered into authoritarian rule under Talon with a steady campaign against his opponents.
Some have fled Benin, while others were disqualified from running via election law reforms, or targeted for investigation by a special court critics say Talon used against his rivals.
Shortly before the election, a judge from the special court said he had fled the country denouncing political pressure to make rulings against Talon’s rivals, including to arrest Madougou.
Government officials have dismissed those claims as political manipulation and accused exiled opposition leaders of trying to have the election suspended.