Benin pro-govt parties win parliament majority

Benin's pro-government parties won a majority of seats in parliament, the country's constitutional court said Thursday, in a vote marking the return of the opposition after four years of absence.

Parties supporting President Patrice Talon, the Republican Bloc and the Progressive Union for Renewal parties together won 81 out of 109 seats in parliament, said Razaki Amouda Issifou, president of the constitutional court.

The opposition Democrats party gained 28 seats, he said.

Earlier on Thursday, Democrats party leader Eric Houndete had denounced "flagrant" ballot box stuffing, rigging and vote buying by the two pro-government parties, without providing immediate evidence.

"The Democrats party rejects this result, which does not reflect the will of the people to make our party the first political force in our country," Houndete said.

Results can be contested for a period of 10 days following the official proclamation of results.

Sunday's vote, which went ahead peacefully, was a test for the West African state where Talon has promoted development but critics say he programme has come at a cost to Benin's once thriving multi-party democracy.

It was the first time the opposition was participating in elections since Talon came to power in 2016.

Voter turnout was 37.79 percent according to the constitutional court.

In 2019, opposition parties were effectively barred from participating in a legislative ballot due to stricter election rules, resulting in a parliament dominated by government supporters.

That vote was marred by deadly clashes in an opposition stronghold, historic low turnout and an internet blackout, rare events in Benin.

Most of Talon's key opponents have also been jailed or gone into exile since the cotton magnate came to office.

This year's legislative elections were key for the opposition in preparation for 2026 presidential elections when candidates will need lawmaker support to be registered.

Parliament also plays a role in the composition of the constitutional court, which oversees rulings on election disputes.

Its mandate ends this year and four new judges will be appointed by lawmakers while three are chosen by the president.

str-lhd/mca