Benin`s President indicates funding crisis for elections

Benin`s President Thomas Boni Yayi has criticised the cost of staging elections and indicated a lack of funds for an upcoming poll, prompting fresh claims he is trying to cling on to power.

Porto-Novo: Benin`s President Thomas Boni Yayi has criticised the cost of staging elections and indicated a lack of funds for an upcoming poll, prompting fresh claims he is trying to cling on to power.

"Since 2006 we have spent more than 100 billion (CFA francs, 152 million euros) organising elections," he said in a televised speech to the nation broadcast on Tuesday evening.

"It`s sad. I`m sad for my country."

Boni Yayi, in power since April 2006 and re-elected in 2011, has been at the centre of claims that he is looking to change the constitution and extend his mandate into a third term.

In the speech, he said the creation of a permanent, digital electoral roll cost 45 billion CFA francs, replacing the previous system where registration was done by hand.

But during the 2011 elections in the tiny West African nation, the system descended into chaos when more than a 1.5 million voters were unable to find their names on the list.

The government has since started a programme to fix the problem and has said the commission in charge of the work has asked for 20 billion CFA francs to complete.

Benin`s main opposition party and civil society groups on Wednesday expressed fears about legislative elections scheduled for next year and the presidential vote in 2016.

"We`ve always wondered about these statements (from Boni Yayi) saying, `I`m going to step down in 2016`," said Theophile Montcho, deputy coordinator of the Union Makes the Nation group.

"We don`t believe a word of it. He`s unveiling the plan that he`s concocted to stay in power. But he should know that he is going to organise elections, whether he`s got the money or not."

Laurent Metognon, general secretary of the union of finance and economy ministry workers, added: "If it`s just about money to organise the elections, we`ll do the work for free to save democracy."

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