Benin’s legislative elections commenced on Sunday with no one contesting from the opposition parties.
The West African nation began voting on Sunday to elect its 83 deputies, in an election in which only two parties close to the government were able to present candidates, and where there are fears of disruption and a very high level of absenteeism as a sign of protest.
Research from the digital monitoring organization NetBlocks shows the country’s leading internet provider Spacetel has been shut down.
The move comes hours after applications including WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, and Instagram were blocked approximately at midnight.
The streets of Cotonou, the economic capital of this small West African country, were particularly quiet and all markets and shops were closed.
The polling stations, opened by 7:00 am (06:00 GMT), but the turnout was very low.
“We started at 7am. Everything has been going well and we’ve had less than 10 voters so far. The number of people on our lists is 455.” said Géraldo Akodjinou, election staff.
The main opposition parties asked their supporters to boycott the election, where they were unable to present candidates for administrative reasons.
At the end of 2018, parliament approved the implementation of a new electoral code to simplify the political landscape and prevent the proliferation of parties (more than 250 in a country of 12 million inhabitants).
“The first thing we’ve noticed and you can see it here is that your haven’t come out yet. On the other hand, we don’t have very many people manning the polling stations. I don’t know if it’s fear. Some voting stations only have one election judge and one officer,” said Rodolphe Bidossessi Aïssoun, Representative of Union Progriste party.
Scuffles broke out on Saturday at the end of the day. Several roads, to Calavi or Savè (Hill Department, fiefdom of former President Boni Yayi), were blocked by angry demonstrators.
All social networks were also suspended , without warning. The Presidency spokesman said on Thursday that the issue of cutting off the Internet had “not been discussed”.