Benin holds run-off presidential elections after poll date wrangle

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Voters have been to the polls to choose between a leading economist and a former prime minister in a run-off vote to select Benin's next leader.

Electoral workers in the capital, Cotonou, began counting ballots yesterday as polling stations closed after days of discussion and confusion over the timing of election day. Partial results could be published today.

Yayi Boni, 58, an economist who previously ran the West African Development Bank, faced off against Adrien Houngbedji, 64, a former prime minister, after neither candidate garnered enough votes in the first round on 5 March to avoid a run-off, Mr Boni winning 36 per cent compared with Mr Houngbedji's 24 per cent. Twenty-six candidates ran in the first round, in which 4 million of Benin's 7 million people were registered to vote.

Mr Houngbedji said as he lodged his vote yesterday: "I'm proud of what's happening in Benin today, in keeping with our democratic plans."

Constitutional court officials wanted to hold the vote later this week to allow more time to organise it, but after days of government talks the outgoing President, Matthieu Kerekou, ordered the poll yesterday.