Soldiers and police surrounded Benin’s parliament Thursday, guarding newly elected lawmakers of the West African nation as they were sworn into office following deadly post-election violence.
Military armoured vehicles and squads of soldiers also patrolled opposition areas in a bid to ensure there was no repeat of protests that erupted after the 28 April parliamentary elections in which at least four people died.
The poll had taken place without any opposition candidate, and all 83 members of parliament come from the only two parties allowed to take part, both allied to President Patrice Talon.
Changes to electoral rules had effectively barred opposition parties from fielding candidates.
Voter turnout was 27.1 percent, a record low since Benin transited to democracy nearly 30 years ago.
Soldiers outside the parliament complex in the capital Porto Novo warned that “all crowds are forbidden” around the assembly.
“The institutions of the republic work very well,” said Jean-Michel Abimbola, a former government minister elected as a member of the parliament for the Republican Bloc.
“In spite of the turmoil, the democracy of Benin is strengthened with the installation of this parliament.”
The results raised concerns of an authoritarian turn in a country once seen as a democratic example in the region.
Amnesty International warned this week that repression had “reached disturbing levels”.
On Thursday, the streets were quiet.
“There are weapons and soldiers everywhere,” said Ariel-Herman Agondanou, a resident of Port Novo who attended the installation of the last two parliaments but this time “preferred to stay at home”