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The fight for Benin’s democratic future

Voters in Benin are taking part in elections after protests over President Patrice Talon’s broken promise to serve only one term in office left two people dead.

There are just two other candidates on the ballot, in a country dubbed the birthplace of African multiparty democracy.

Alassane Soumanou of the opposition FCBE party is a former minister, while Corentin Kohoué is seen as more of a wildcard.

Several key opposition figures – including an ex-prime minister and a former mayor of the biggest city Cotonou – have either been arrested and ruled ineligible or are now in exile.

But a government spokesman has told the BBC “no-one is excluded from this election”.

“We do not need every person in Benin to run as candidates in an election for it to be representative. Once you have the ruling party and the opposition represented, an election is complete – and the democratic system is operational,” Communication Minister Alain Arounla said.

More than 5.5 million people are eligible to vote, including about 45,500 in the diaspora, and results are expected within days.

Many in Benin question the legitimacy of the election and some fear more violence could break out, reports the BBC’s Lalla Sy who was recently in Cotonou.

Two people were killed in the town of Savè on Thursday, officials say, when security forces broke up a protest. Health workers report that another six people suffered gunshot wounds.

Demonstrations also happened in the cities of Cotonou, Parakou and three other towns.

“We want the president to leave. Five years means five years,” Cotonou protester Rodrigue Amadou told Reuters news agency.

The authorities have accused the protesters of starting the violence, saying the security forces were assaulted by drugged and armed youths. But others say it is an example of how Benin has become more authoritarian under President Talon’s rule. –BBC/Reuters

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