Citizens Protest In Cotonou Over Delay In Local Elections

Citizens of the Republic of Benin took to the streets of Cotonou, the country’s commercial hub, on Thursday, in two separate marches prompted by a delay in holding local elections scheduled for last year.

Opposition supporters and backers of the government of Thomas Boni Yayi marched along two separate ways in peaceful demonstrations.

Local elections were last held in the West African nation in 2008. A vote was to have been held in March last year but has been put off indefinitely.

“Elections are very important in a country. We think the government should respect the people by doing all it can to meet the challenge and organise this delayed vote,” Atao Hinnouho, opposition lawmaker said on Thursday.

“If the government is incapable of organizing elections, they should say so and the people will take it on themselves, enough is enough,” Stanislas Houngbedji, a protester said.

On the other hand Eugene Azatassou, from the ruling party, said the opposition had misrepresented the situation, attributing the delay to an upgrade in the country’s digitized electoral roll system. Pro-government protester blamed the opposition themselves and accused them of “maligning the country’s institutions” and constitution.

At the last presidential vote in 2011, more than 1.5 million people in the country of about 10 million were unable to find their names on the list of registered voters.

The government maintains it has been trying to fix the problem ever since but the opposition has suggested it is a delay tactics meant to allow Yayi to cling to power indefinitely.

Parliamentary elections are due to be held next year while elections for a new president are slated for 2016, with Yayi at the centre of claims that he is looking to secure a third term of office. The country’s current constitution only allows for two terms of office.

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