afrol News, 5 March - Benin last month saw mass protests, demanding a delay of the elections planned for 27 February as 1.4 million voters were missing in the electoral roll. Now, the Constitutional Court has given them right.
The Constitutional Court of Benin yesterday afternoon ruled in the favour of the country's opposition - backed by crowds of protesters - and delayed the presidential elections for another week, to 13 March, in order to expand the electoral roll further. This follows an earlier rescheduling from 27 February to 6 March.
According to the court ruling, the independent electoral commission of Benin would not be able to organise "credible elections" by 6 March.
The opposition and angry Beninese voters reacted with protests as it was know that only 3.5 million citizens had been inscribed in the country's new, computerised electoral roll. This would exclude an estimated 1.4 million potential voters from participating in the poll, according to opposition sources.
A group of 11 out of the 14 presidential candidates therefore urged President Yayi Boni to postpone the elections "by a few weeks" to allow the commission to complete registration. On 21 February, they organised protest marches to have their demands met.
President Boni, who seeks re-election for a second term, at first refused to hear the demands of the opposition and angry voters.
This week, however, pressure on the Boni government increased as a joint mission of the UN, the African Union (A
Re-election campaign presentation of Benins's Yayi Boni
U) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) backed calls for delaying the presidential poll "to allow time to ensure that the electoral process is credible."
The team "expressed its support for a postponement of the presidential elections by a few days to a date that is consistent with the deadlines prescribed by the Constitution," according to a joint communiqué issued on Thursday. The team also urged protesters to "demonstrate a high sense of responsibility ... at this historic moment of democratic consolidation."
The Constitutional Court agreed with the opposition and the UN, AU, ECOWAS mission, with a sentence to a large degree repeating the arguments of the foreign delegation.
The main challenger in the poll, Adrien Houngbédji of the Union makes the Nation (UfN) party, spearheaded the protests and legal action against the Boni government. It is widely believed that Mr Houngbédji's defence of the un-registered voters would boost his popularity in the upcoming polls.
Benin since the 1990s has enjoyed one of Africa's most functional and peaceful multi-party democracies, with heads of states accepting defeat in election and respecting the two-term limit. Even President Boni so far has not shown many authoritarian tendencies.
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