- Title: BENIN: Benin holds parliamentary elections
- Date: 3rd April 2007
- Summary: (SOUNBITE) (French) ROSINE SOGLO, VOTER, SAYING: "I'm happy everything went well because I was afraid of the worst."
- Embargoed: 18th April 2007 13:00
- Location: Benin
- Country: Benin
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA6S1FSH010YT9ZKXOHMK1XX87E
- Story Text: Voting in Benin got off to a strong start on Saturday (March 31) as almost 4 million voters showed up at 17 polling stations around the country to elect their parliamentarians.
There are 84 seats to be filled in the House of Representatives.
The parliamentary polls were originally due to be held last Sunday (March 25) but were postponed after days of wrangling in the electoral commission, including workers demanding advance payment, which meant ballot papers were not ready on time.
"We did not have ballot papers. We were scheduled to start at 7.00 a.m. and we have been ready since yesterday 8.00 p.m., but we are only now just starting. I'm sure the last polling station will open at midday," said Latif Ladjouan, an officer at one of the polling stations.
2,158 candidates were in the running at these elections representing 26 political parties and alliances. Each successful candidate will serve a four-year term.
"In a democratic system, the best way to express one's opinion concerning the management of public affairs is the ballot paper and the ballot box and accordingly I urge people to go out en masse to vote," said Adrien Houngbedji, the president of the Party for the Revival and Democracy (PRD).
The parliamentary elections come one year after the election of Thomas Boni Yayi as the president, which marked the end of three decades of domineering rule by a small political elite under the government of former president Mathieu Kerekou.
"For me it represents a supplementary step in the direction of a state, a lawful state, a mature democracy," said Yayi.
Previous elections have been tarnished with fraud claims and organisational problems since Kerekou introduced multi-party democracy in 1991, although the country has been more peaceful than most of its neighbours in recent years.
"I'm happy everything went well because I was afraid of the worst," said Rosine Soglo, a voter in Contonou.
A third of Benin's 8.7 million people live below the poverty line and unemployment is rife. People here hope that a newly elected national assembly will help fortify the government and improve things in the former French colony.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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