Benin’s President Patrice Talon talks to African Union observers after casting his ballot at a polling station in Cotonou, Benin, Apr. 11, 2021.
Although he points to strong economic growth while he has been in power, Talon has been accused by opponents of undermining the country’s standing as one of the most stable democracies in West Africa. Freedom House, a U.S.-based democracy advocacy group, lowered Benin’s annual ranking last year from “free” to “partly free.”
Talon, 62, a multimillionaire cotton tycoon first elected president in 2016, is facing two rivals, Alassane Soumanou and Corentin Kohoue.
Protests in several cities turned violent. Speaking to the local radio station, the mayor of the central town of Bante said some people were killed in gunfire Thursday there as security forces fired warning shots, according to Reuters. The mayor did not say how many people were killed during protests.
The U.S., German, French and Dutch embassies and the European Union delegation to Benin have called for calm and for the vote to be conducted in a free and transparent manner.