March 6, 2016 / 7:59 AM / 3 years ago

Polls open in Benin presidential election

Election posters are seen pasted on a wall at the entrance to Benin Tennis Club, a day before the presidential election in Cotonou, March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

COTONOU (Reuters) - Polls opened in Benin on Sunday in an election to replace President Thomas Boni Yayi who is stepping down after two terms, leaving 33 candidates to vie for power in the small West African nation.

Leading the field is Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou, a former economist and investment banker backed by the president and the main opposition Democratic Renewal Party.

Benin produces cotton but its economy is flagging, in part because a fall in oil prices has hit its giant neighbour Nigeria. A big choice facing voters is who best can create jobs and improve education.

The election began slowly in the capital with agents laying out materials and small lines of voters forming at polling stations, a witness said.

“I have just voted. It’s a matter of pride for me to have done my duty as a citizen. My candidate will win. I don’t think there will be too many (logistical) difficulties,” said Clarisse Nibime who voted in the capital.

Boni Yayi’s decision to step down marks him out from African leaders in countries such as Burundi, Rwanda and Congo Republic who have changed the constitution to pave the way for a third term.

Reporting by Allegresse Sasse; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Susan Thomas

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