COTONOU (Reuters) – Opponents of Benin’s President Patrice Talon protested in several cities and towns on Monday night and Tuesday morning, denouncing his decision to stand for re-election next week. Talon, who came to power in 2016, will face two rivals on Sunday, despite a promise that he would only serve one term. Hundreds of people marched, burned tires and blocked roads in the commercial capital, Cotonou, a Reuters witness said. Social media posts showed demonstrations also taking place in the central city of Parakou and three other cities. “We want the president to leave. Five years means five years,” said Cotonou protester Rodrigue Amadou. In that city, most of the protesters had been dispersed by noon and military vehicles patrolled the streets. The opposition wants Talon to follow through on a promise he made when he was first elected to resign after five years to avoid “complacency” and seek to limit future presidents to a single term. They also say his term ended on April 6, rejecting a constitutional review in 2019 that extended the term until May. On Monday night, a government spokesman called the protests “a totally useless cause.” Benin’s image as a bastion of democracy and stability in West Africa was affected by the exclusion of opposition leaders from the 2019 parliamentary elections, sparking rare unrest. Under Talon, leading opposition figures have also faced targeted harassment from the authorities, including through the courts, according to the US democracy watchdog Freedom House.
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