March 19, 2011 / 10:17 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-Benin opposition rejects Yayi poll win

* Benin’s Yayi win poll in first round -commission

* Rival rejects results, claims fraud

(Recasts with opposition rejection)

COTONOU, March 19 (Reuters) - Benin’s incumbent President Boni Yayi won re-election outright last weekend, according to the election commission, but his challenger on Saturday rejected the results as a plot to rob the people of their rights.

Prospects of another contested election in West Africa emerged earlier this week when both Yayi and his rival, veteran politician Adrien Houngbedji, claimed to have won the March 13 poll, itself twice delayed over rows over voter lists.

Election commission results, which now must be confirmed by the country’s constitutional court, gave Yayi over 53 percent of the vote, meaning he would avoid a run-off against Houngbedji, who scored 35 percent.

But Houngbedji on Saturday rejected the election commission results, without saying how he planned to challenge them.

“We won the election. We are claiming our victory,” Houngbedji said in a statement that accused the election commission of being biased in favour of Yayi.

“The Beninois people are victims of a plot that seeks to steal our rights and freedoms,” he added.

The poll had been delayed twice due to opposition complaints that hundreds of thousands of people had been left off the election register.

Houngbedji cited problems with the lists in his statement and complained that voting had been marred by fictitious polling stations and the stuffing of ballot boxes.

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, who is current head of West Africa’s ECOWAS regional bloc, on Friday called on Benin’s rivals to only challenge the election results through legal means.

Yayi beat Houngbedji in a 2006 run-off but last year was embroiled in a collapsed ponzi scheme scandal. The latest election had been expected to go to a second round.

Benin is a top regional cotton producer with a population of 9 million and has won international praise for having avoided coups and post-election turbulence seen in countries like Guinea and Ivory Coast. (Reporting by Samuel Elijah; writing by David Lewis; editing by Jon Boyle)

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