Pro-government, opposition marchers demonstrate in Benin

Pro-government, opposition marchers demonstrate in Benin

COTONOU - Several thousand people took to the streets of Benin's commercial hub Cotonou on Thursday, in two separate marches prompted by a delay in holding local elections scheduled for last year.

Opposition supporters and those backing the government of President Thomas Boni Yayi marched along two separate routes but although noisy, the demonstrations passed off peacefully.

Local elections were last held in the tiny West African nation in 2008. A vote was to have been held in March last year but has been put off indefinitely.

Opposition lawmaker Atao Hinnouho said on Thursday: "Elections are very important in a country.

"We think the government should respect the people by doing all it can to meet the challenge and organise this delayed vote."

"If the government is incapable of organising elections, they should say so and the people will take it on themselves," added protester Stanislas Houngbedji.

"Enough is enough." But Eugene Azatassou, from the ruling party, said the opposition had misrepresented the situation, attributing the delay to an upgrade in the country's digitised electoral roll system.

At the last presidential vote in 2011, more than 1.5 million people in the country of about 10 million were unable to find their names on the list.

The opposition claims the omissions were in their party strongholds.

The government maintains it has been trying to fix the problem ever since but the opposition has suggested it is a delaying tactic to allow Boni Yayi to cling to power.

Parliamentary elections are due to be held next year and for a new president in 2016, with Boni Yayi at the centre of claims that he is looking to secure a third term of office.

Currently, the constitution only allows for two.

A pro-government protester, Ben Alligbonon, blamed the opposition themselves and accused them of "maligning the country's institutions" and constitution.

The marches came after a separate demonstration by opposition supporters in the capital, Porto Novo, on Wednesday.

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