COTONOU — Benin President Boni Yayi has won re-election with more than 53 percent of the vote, the electoral commission head announced Friday, but opposition members rejected the results and tension rose.
The announcement of the results, which must still be approved by the constitutional court to become final, followed an incident earlier in the evening that saw opposition members block their release.
Yayi's main challenger, Adrien Houngbedji, had already alleged fraud in Sunday's vote and accused Yayi of seeking to avoid a runoff. The electoral commission numbers showed Houngbedji with 36 percent.
Neither candidate had offered any immediate reaction to the results in the West African nation of some 9.2 million people perhaps best known as the heartland of voodoo.
It was unclear whether the dispute would escalate and result in wider protests.
Relatively small protests of a few hundred people took place in the run-up to the vote after the opposition alleged more than a million people were left off the electoral list -- a figure others said was exaggerated.
Opposition supporters who are also electoral commission members had earlier Friday prevented commission head Joseph Gnonlonfoun from announcing the results, saying they disputed them, by blocking the door to the room he tried to enter.
Pushing and shouting occurred before Gnonlonfoun returned to his office, where he later announced the results in the presence of journalists.
"We don't recognise the results that he wants to announce," Edouard Aho, an electoral commission member and opposition supporter, told AFP after the incident earlier in the evening.
"All Gnonlonfoun and his gang want to do is set the country on fire and cause bloodshed."
Gnonlonfoun made brief comments when announcing the numbers from voting day, which passed calmly despite chaotic preparations that had earlier led to two postponements.
"Our people have expressed themselves en masse," he said. "They have delivered to us a message of peace, courage and faith in the future."
On Tuesday, Yayi's campaign claimed he won the elections outright even without official results announced, but Houngbedji disagreed, saying he had finished first and alleging fraud in the vote.
A runoff vote was to be held two weeks after the first round if no candidate had gained an absolute majority.
Earlier Friday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said his country would not accept a post-poll conflict at its border as he visited neighbouring Benin.
"Nigeria will never accept any post-electoral conflict at its borders," Jonathan told journalists after meeting Yayi.
Jonathan is the current chairman of West African bloc ECOWAS, which includes Benin.
Benin was using an electronic voting list for the first time, leading to the opposition's claim that more than a million people had been left off the roll.
Houngbedji, 69 and running in his fifth presidential election, had pushed for a third postponement of the ballot, arguing that voter registration should continue.
A mop-up voter registration was originally to be held the Wednesday and Thursday before the vote, but was extended into Saturday when crowds mobbed sign-up centres and equipment broke down.
On the Monday after the vote, newspapers published unofficial results from a sampling of districts suggesting Yayi and Houngbedji may be headed for a runoff.
However, many of the results were from the country's south, where Houngbedji is from. Yayi is from the north.
Yayi was seen as a symbol of change when he took office in 2006 in the country dependent on cotton cultivation and its port, but has since been weighed down by corruption scandals.
One such scandal involved an alleged Ponzi scheme that left thousands without their savings. Yayi was accused of assisting the company involved.
Houngbedji was supported by many of the country's traditional political elites. Abdoulaye Bio Tchane, who had been seen as a third major candidate in the race, had 6.288 percent in Sunday's vote.
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