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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 11:22 GMT
Benin poll further undermined
Supporters of President Kerekou rally
The campaign was colourful
Several members of the electoral commission in Benin have stepped down in protest at the way the presidential election run-off is being organised this Thursday.

Officials in Benin announced earlier this week that Bruno Amoussou, who came fourth in presidential elections two weeks ago, had agreed to stand against President Mathieu Kerekou, who topped the poll.

The two candidates who came ahead of Mr Amoussou pulled out of the second-round of the election, claiming vote-rigging.

The chief of the electoral commission, Charles Djkrepo, is insisting that the run-off will go ahead as scheduled.

President Kerekou campaigning
Mr Kerekou: Came out top in the first round
The main opposition contender, Nicephore Soglo, withdrew last week after the constitutional court refused to nullify the results of the first round, when fraud had been alleged.

The speaker of the parliament, Adrien Houngbedji, who came third in the first round of voting, said he did not want to "give his blessing to a masquerade".

The incumbent president took 47.06% of the poll in the first round with Mr Soglo, taking 28.94%.

Mr Houngbedji polled 13.47%.

Mr Amoussou is a current minister and had initially announced he would support Mr Kerekou in the run-off.

Democracy

Benin was one of the first African countries to embrace democracy a decade ago and has since then seen two peaceful handovers of presidential power.

Opposition leader Nicephore Soglo
Mr Soglo: Pulled out of run-off alleging fraud
Mr Kerekou, a former Marxist military officer, made African history in 1991 when, after two decades of power which he seized in a coup d'etat, he accepted defeat in a democratic election forced on him by people tired of one-party rule.

He was beaten by Mr Soglo, a retired international banker. But five years later, Mr Kerekou bounced back, winning another democratic poll.

Mr Kerekou, 67, the former dictator turned democrat, has earned himself a nickname along the way - "the political chameleon".

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See also:

10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Benin
12 Mar 01 | Africa
Run-off for Benin
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