Benin votes for president after week of protests

Polls opened in the west African nation, Benin, on Sunday (April 11) following a week of deadly protests. Some opposition parties called for a boycott of the presidential election after protests against the incumbent Patrice Talon turned violent in several cities.

Talon is heavily favored to win a second term.

The multi-millionaire cotton magnate who touts strong economic growth under his leadership, is accused by his opponents of undermining Benin's standing as one of West Africa's most stable democracies.

Among the protesters' complaints are Talon's U-turn on a pledge he made as a candidate in 2016 to serve only one term and changes he pushed through to election laws that he said were aimed at streamlining unwieldy government institutions.

In practice, those reforms resulted in total control of parliament by Talon's supporters and the exclusion of leading opponents from the presidential race.

U.S. democracy watchdog Freedom House downgraded Benin last year in its annual rankings from "free" to "partly free."

Talon faces two relatively little-known opposition candidates.

Amnesty international said several more prominent opposition leaders have been detained this year on terrorism-related charges.

In the commercial capital Cotonou, several people said they feared violence on election day.