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Last Updated:  Monday, 31 March, 2003, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Benin awaits poll results
Counting is underway after parliamentary elections in Benin with the first results expected to be released within the next 48 hours.

The governing party is hopings to win a majority in the parliament.

President Mathieu Kerekou's Union for the Future of Benin (UBF) currently holds 41 seats against the opposition's 42.

The lack of a clear majority has delayed the passage of legislation and led to endless horse-trading at the parliament every time a bill is voted upon.

The UBF party did well in local elections in December and January.

It is being challenged by the Renaissance of Benin and the Party for Democratic Renewal.

Allegations

The opposition has accused the ruling party of intimidating their supporters.

Civilian "anti-fraud brigades" organised by the opposition have been banned by the government who say they might create disorder.
It seems like they're trying to intimidate us, since there's no law against the presence of the public near the voting booths
Guy Ossito

"It seems like they're trying to intimidate us, since there's no law against the presence of the public near the voting booths," said Guy Ossito Midiohouan, spokesman of the main opposition Benin Renaissance party.

More than 1,000 candidates from 14 parties are running for the 83 seats of the single-chamber parliament.

The authorities have not said when the results will be announced.

Democracy in action

The elections are the fourth to be held since the introduction of party politics in 1990 when Mr Kerekou, a Marxist coup leader, ceded his election loss to a political rival.

Voting in the impoverished former French colony of 5.7 million people usually takes place along regional lines.

The political centre and main port Cotonou is the stronghold of former president and opposition leader Nicephore Soglo, the city's mayor.

The official capital, Port-Novo, also has a mayor from the opposition, which traditionally does well in the centre and the south of the country.

Pro-Kerekou parties tend to perform strongly in the north and the west.

According to Radio France International turn out was low and there were logistical problems.


SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Benin
11 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Local polling in Benin
15 Dec 02  |  Africa
Benin marks Voodoo Day
11 Jan 02  |  Africa


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