The electorate in the West African nation of Benin will have to select one out of a whopping 33 presidential candidates to replace the outgoing President Yayi Boni on Sunday March 6, 2016.
Yayi Boni has finished his five year two terms in office. During his second term, 16 others contested him.
In Benin, election results are declared by the Constitutional Court and not the Electoral Commission that organises the elections.
The election was initially scheduled for February 28 but the Constitutional Court which has the final say in all election matters had to shift the date to March 6 because institutions executing the elections were not ready.
Over 60 per cent of voters had not received their cards, although the court had ruled that old identity cards could be used for the polls.
In Benin voters identity cards are not compiled and distributed by the Electoral Commission.
According to Graphic Online’s reporter, Kwamena Nyamekye who is covering the elections, the front runners include the current Prime Minister, Lionel Zinsou, who has a dual nationality from France and is described by opponents as an outsider because he had not lived in the country for more than two years but was brought in by President Boni less than a year ago as his Prime Minister. He is tipped by the political pundits to win the elections.
Sebastien Ajavon, a wealthy businessman who is accredited with importing chicken to the country over the years and had made a fortune from the trade is also making strides and considered a front runner. He is believed to have supported a lot of the candidates in past elections but now has the conviction that he should also stake his claim.
Affectionately referred to as the “King of Cotton” in Benin for his vast investment in the cotton industry which had created more jobs, Patrice Talon is also tipped to make a great show at the March 6 elections. He had a trouble with President Boni and had to pack bag and baggage and run to France through some West African nations to seek asylum in France. He returned recently to contest the elections.
Former Prime Minister for President Yayi for seven years and four months, Pascal Irene Koupaki abandoned ship after some misunderstanding and is currently challenging his predecessor for the position of President.
Abdoulaye Bio Tchane known in political circles and advertises only as “ABT”, is an international economist and a second time presidential candidate.
After the first round election, if no candidate secures 50 per cent plus one of the vote, the first two candidates will go for a run off.
A total of 47 candidates first submitted their forms including health certificate declaring them fit to the constitutional Court to contest the elections but eleven could not raise the filing fees to pay. Three candidates later opted out for no apparent reason.
Meanwhile the seven-member Constitutional Court of Benin clothed with the powers to adjudicate all matters relating to the March 6 presidential elections has dispatched hundreds of judges and magistrate in the country to monitor the elections.
This is to afford the court firsthand information about what took place aside complaints of voters, candidates and others before pronouncing the eventual winner of the elections.
It is the same court that vets candidates to ensure that they are not below 40 and above 70 years and have clean health certified by a medical team before allowing them to contest the elections.
In Benin the independent National Electoral Commission organizes the elections but it is the Constitutional Court that pronounces the winner after taking into consideration all the complaints and issues raised.
According to the President of the Constitutional Court, Professor Theodore Hola, the court will always protect the laws of the land and the interest of the people in all its decisions.
The judges and magistrate who have already been trained and accredited would move from polling station to polling station to ascertain if the polls are going on in tandem with the rules and regulations governing it.