March 13, 2011 / 3:10 PM / 8 years ago

Benin votes in twice-postponed presidential poll

COTONOU, March 13 (Reuters) - Voters cast their ballots in Benin’s presidential election on Sunday in a poll postponed twice because of chaotic voter registration.

President Boni Yayi, 58, who has seen his popularity slip after a collapsed ponzi scheme scandal, is facing a tough field of challengers led by veteran politician Adrien Houngbedji, 69.

With 13 candidates on the ballot, the election is expected to go to a run-off. Yayi beat Houngbedji a 2006 run-off.

This time around, opposition candidates who had threatened to boycott the poll, said nearly 400,000 people have been omitted from the voters register.

President Yayi apologised to those who had not be registered after voting at a public school near his home in Cotonou.

“I ask for forgiveness from all citizens of Benin who have not been able to express their voice because they were unable to register,” he said after casting his ballot.

Witnesses said polling stations in the main city Cotonou, opened with some delay due to the late arrival of election materials including ballot boxes, ballot papers and ink.

Some 3.5 million voters are expected to vote to elect a fifth president in the West African state since the advent of multiparty democracy in 1990.

Benin, a top regional cotton producer with a population of nine million, is one of the few countries in Africa’s “coup belt” to have successfully held free and fair elections, winning international praise.

Voting is expected to end at 1500 GMT and results are not expected before Tuesday. (Reporting by Samuel Elijah; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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