Benin voters boycotted parliamentary elections held on Sunday, April 28 with no opposition candidates as the government shut down access to the internet.
The Benin government introduced a new law in July 2018 that created a 10% electoral threshold to enter parliament and increased the deposit required for a parliamentary list to 249 million francs (USD $423 200).
Only two political parties that are loyal to President Patrice Talon specifically the Republican Bloc and the Progressive Union were approved by the National Electoral Commission of Benin (CENA Benin) to participate in the country’s parliamentary election.
Talon a former businessman known as the “King of Cotton” was listed in 2015 as the 15th richest person in sub-Saharan Africa by Forbes with an estimated wealth of US$400 million.
He later became president in 2016 after winning a runoff election with 65% on a reform agenda, even calling for a referendum to limit presidents to a single six-year term, although he lost that vote.
On introducing the new electoral reforms that the opposition have called repressive, Talon said he intended to reduce the number of political parties from over 200 to just a handful.
In the run-up to Benin’s parliamentary elections, two former presidents called for the vote to be postponed and, protests broke but a brutal crackdown soon followed.
Meanwhile, Talon the architect of the “repressive laws” said he’s “very uncomfortable” with the situation but can’t interfere with the country’s laws.
Presidential spokesperson Wilfried Houngbedji blamed the opposition for not meeting the requirements and said delaying the vote was not within the president’s power.
Research from the digital monitoring organization NetBlocks showed Benin’s leading internet provider Spacetel was shut down on election day just hours after applications including WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, and Instagram were blocked.
The West African nation now joins the list of African states, including Sudan, DR Congo, and Egypt who have limited online access ahead of key elections, political referenda, or anti-government protests this year.
Pictures President Talon voting with his wife Claudine Gbenagnon at the Charles Guillot public school in Zongo in the port city of Cotonou.