April 26, 2015 / 6:12 PM / 4 years ago

Benin president denies third term bid as vote proceeds

COTONOU (Reuters) - Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi promised on Sunday to leave power when his mandate expires next year as crowds across the cotton producer voted in legislative elections.

Benin's President Thomas Yayi Boni attends the opening ceremony of the 24th Ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) at the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 30, 2015. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Gains for Boni Yayi’s opponents could complicate his plans to undertake the constitutional reform that his government says is needed to fight graft and guarantee the electoral process.

Opponents allege a secret bid to scrap term limits so the president can run for a third term from 2016.

Neighboring Burkina Faso’s long-ruling president, Blaise Compaore, attempted to scrap limits last year and was driven out of power by protests.

“I will not be a candidate for anything. My name will not feature on the ballot paper,” said Boni Yayi after casting his vote.

One of the biggest issues in the campaign has been ensuring the fair distribution of economic growth, forecast at 5 percent over the next few years. In the economic capital and port city of Cotonou, voters streamed onto the streets early on Sunday to go to polling booths.

Around 500 politicians are competing for 83 seats in the national assembly of the country of 10 million people, one of the region’s more stable democracies.

But some complained in the coastal town of Abomey-Calavi that a lack of staff and equipment was causing delays to voting.

“The people manning the stations are absent. It’s a real shame and I don’t know how we will cope with this,” said Stephane Kougbadi, observer of the Autonomous National Electoral Commission (CENA).

Problems with voting cards have also been reported and by Thursday, only 77 percent of them had been collected, CENA said.

Reporting by Allegresse Sasse; Writing by Emma Farge; editing by Ralph Boulton

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