Benin: Presidential election campaign begins

BY: Kwamena Nyamekye

The constitutional court of Benin has blown the whistle for the start of a two week campaign leading to the election of a new president to succeed Mr Boni Yayi.

Mr Yayi has finished serving two terms of five years each in office.

In Benin, electioneering campaign is done only 15 days to elections.

With the green light from the constitutional court, all the 33 candidates can now start posting posters, rolling television and radio commercials and holding of large rallies in any part of the country till 24 hours before the March 6 crucial elections.

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Although It is against the electoral laws of the country to campaign in any form before the legal 15 days to the election, Graphic Online’s reporter, Kwamena Nyamekye who is in Cotonou to report on the elections said most of the leading candidates took the lead before the blast by campaigning mostly under the guise of meeting party faithful.

When the flood gates were opened for candidates to file their nomination with Constitutional Court, 47 people expressed interest and submitted their forms, health certificates indicating they have a clean bill of health to lead the country and an equivalent of $25,000.

The court in turn cleared 36 and dropped 11 for not meeting the various standards set by the court, especially for not being able to raise the filing fee.

Just days after the court had given the green light to the 36, three other candidates dropped from the race citing various reasons, ranging from inability to raise huge sums of for the campaign and intention to support other candidates.

The national media commission known as the Higher Authority for Audiovisual and Communication (HAAC) has put together a code of conduct for the presidential candidates most of whom are independent candidates.

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In the code the candidates and their officers are supposed to ensure that they do not indulge in anything that would injure the peace and security of the state and also refrain from attacking the person of their fellow candidates.

Initially, majority of the candidates vehemently opposed to that clause that enjoins them not to attack the person of their colleagues but upon persuasion, they have agreed and had started appending their signatures to the code.

The constitutional court has ruled that voters can use either their old voters card which is a piece of laminated paper or the new biometric card.

The decision was taken because the body in charge of generating and distributing the new cards had failed to live up to its deadlines and the court fears the same people might be disenfranchised.