NAIROBI/COTONOU/NIAMEY. — Five African countries, Benin, Niger, Republic of Congo, Cape Verde, Senegal as well as Tanzania’s semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar, held elections on Sunday, which were generally considered peaceful.
Whereas Benin and Niger held presidential runoff poll, the Republic of Congo was holding the first round of the presidential elections.
On the other hand, Senegal was holding a constitutional referendum to allow citizens determine whether to maintain the current seven-year presidential term mandate or reduce it to five years.
At the same time, Cape Verde held legislative elections to fill up 72 seats in the National Assembly.
And in Zanzibar, voters went back to the polls after the results of presidential and parliamentary elections held on October 25, 2015 were nullified by the Zanzibar Electoral Commission over vote rigging allegations.
In a statement released Sunday in Addis Ababa, African Union (AU) Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma called for smooth, peaceful, transparent and credible polls in the six AU member states.
Meanwhile, as results start to be announced, Benin Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou yesterday conceded defeat to businessman Patrice Talon in presidential elections.
“I called Patrice Talon tonight (Sunday night) to congratulate him on his victory and wish him luck,” Zinsou said in a statement on his Facebook page.
Zinsou and Talon were competing in a second-round run-off vote after neither won an outright majority in the first round of voting on March 6. Zinsou conceded after early results overnight gave Talon 64.8 percent of the vote, against 35.2 for Zinsou.
Zinsou, a former economist and investment banker, backed by outgoing President Thomas Boni Yayi and the main opposition Democratic Renewal Party, was an early front-runner in the election after winning the first round of voting.
However, he struggled to overcome the perception that having spent the bulk of his career abroad he is an outsider in his own country.
Talon was not immediately available to comment. He was a staunch supporter of Yayi before falling out of favour. Yayi later accused him of involvement in a plot to poison him.
Mediation efforts led to a presidential pardon, however, and Talon returned from exile in France in October.
In Niger, President Mahamadou Issoufou looked more than likely to win after the opposition called a boycott and its jailed leader was flown out of the country for medical reasons last week.
Issoufou, an ally of the West in its fight against Islamist insurgents in West Africa, won the first round comfortably last month with 48 percent of votes but failed to clinch the outright majority required to avoid a second round.
“I am against any boycott. I’ve just voted,” said Sadou Ide, who cast his vote soon after polling stations opened at the Nogare school in Niamey.
Southern Niger, which borders Nigeria, has been the target of frequent deadly raids by Islamist Boko Haram militants. It also shares borders with Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, where Al-Qaeda-linked groups are active. Libya, home to Islamic State affiliates, lies on its northern border.
Speaking after casting his vote on Sunday, Issoufou appealed to Nigeriens to stay the course amid the growing menace from regional militants.
“A single term in office is not enough to overcome all the challenges, in particular I am thinking of the security challenges,” he said. “We need a sacred union . . . We must remained united.” — Xinhua/Reuters/Herald Reporter.