Record Number of Hopefuls Seek Benin Presidency in Election

  • Outgoing Thomas Yayi Boni leaves after two terms in office
  • Some of nation's wealthiest businessmen vie for presidency

Voters in Benin went to the polls on Sunday in an election with a record number of independent candidates as outgoing President Thomas Yayi Boni is set to hand over power after two terms in office.

As many as 33 men and women are vying for the presidency, including some of the West African nation’s wealthiest businessmen. Among the hopefuls are Sebastien Ajavon, who amassed millions of dollars in trucking and selling frozen chicken, and Patrice Talon, who made a fortune importing fertilizers for the cotton industry. The ruling Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin has chosen Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou, a former investment banker, as its candidate.

A ballot with photographs of the presidential candidates at a polling station in Cotonou
A ballot with photographs of the presidential candidates at a polling station in Cotonou
Photographer: Pius Utomi Ekopei/AFP/Getty Images

Polling stations closed at 4 p.m. after nine hours of voting. About 4.7 million people in the nation of 10 million were eligible to vote, according to the national electoral commission. A runoff will be held if none of the candidates wins an outright majority.

The $9 billion-economy relies mainly on cotton exports and trade with neighbor Nigeria. Benin is Africa’s fourth-largest cotton producer. Despite an economic slowdown in Nigeria, growth is projected to reach 5.5 percent this year on the back of increased public investment, according to the International Monetary Fund.

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