A Cold Welcome
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Benin’s pro-government parties won a majority of seats in parliament following last week’s legislative elections, a vote that also saw the return of the opposition after four years out of government, Agence France-Presse reported.
The country’s constitutional court said that parties supporting President Patrice Talon won 81 out of 109 seats in the legislature. The opposition Democrats party gained 28 seats, it added.
The court noted that voter turnout was nearly 38 percent, a historically low turnout.
The parliamentary elections served as a test for Benin, where Talon has promoted development while his critics have accused him of eroding the West African country’s democracy.
Since coming to power in 2016 and after getting re-elected in 2021, most of Talon’s opponents have been jailed or have fled the country.
During the 2019 parliamentary vote, stricter election rules effectively barred opposition parties from participating, which resulted in a legislature dominated by pro-government parties.
This election was characterized by deadly clashes in an opposition stronghold, low turnout, and an internet outage, all of which are unusual in Benin.
Following this year’s election, Democrats leader Eric Houndete accused pro-government parties of vote rigging and ballot box stuffing, although he did not provide any evidence.
The parliamentary elections this year were critical for the opposition in preparing for the presidential elections in 2026 when candidates will require support from lawmakers to qualify.
Parliament also has a say in who sits on the constitutional court, which rules on election disputes.
Critics claim Talon’s government has used the court, which was established in 2016, to crack down on his opponents.