Benin Elects Lawmakers, With Opposition Allowed to Stand

Benin votes for a new parliament Sunday with opposition candidates authorized to stand in the legislative elections after four years of absence.

Sunday’s vote will be a key test for the West African nation, where President Patrice Talon’s supporters say he has ushered in political and economic development, but critics argue that his mandate has eroded democracy.

At the last parliamentary votes in 2019, the opposition was de facto barred from participating after a tightening of electoral regulations.

Only two political movements allied with Talon were authorized to participate then, leading to a parliament controlled by pro-government parties.

The 2019 legislative elections were also marred by violence, record abstention and an internet shutdown, rare events in a country once seen as a model of democracy in West Africa.

On Sunday seven political parties, including three allied with the opposition, have been authorized to take part in the election.

But most of Talon’s main opponents are either in prison or in exile.

Reckya Madougou has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for “terrorism,” while Joel Aivo — an academic — was given 10 years in prison for “conspiracy against the authority of state” in December 2021.

Both were tried by a special court dealing with terrorism and economic crimes, known as the CRIET. Critics say the court, created by Talon’s government in 2016, has been used to crack down on his opponents.

Around 6.6 million voters are eligible to elect 109 deputies Sunday, including at least 24 women — at least one per constituency — according to a new electoral code.

Beyond the opposition’s drive to reclaim seats in parliament, Sunday’s election will impact the future of some of the other institutions in the small country, which sits between Nigeria and Togo.

The mandate of the Constitutional Court ends this year and, three years before the 2026 presidential ballot, the court’s composition is crucial as it oversees decisions on elections.

Four judges are appointed by lawmakers while the other three are chosen by the president. A wealthy businessman, Talon was elected in 2016 and reelected in 2021.

Source: Voice of America

Loeb powers Bahrain Raid Xtreme to dramatic Dakar Rally stage victory

Riyadh, Sebastien Loeb recorded a dramatic stage victory for Bahrain Raid Xtreme in the Dakar Rally today after another classic battle with Carlos Sainz and overall leader Nasser Al Attiyah in Saudi Arabia.

Loeb and Fabian Lurquin in their BRX Prodrive Hunter won the 346km eighth stage from Al Duwadimi to Riyadh by 2 mins 11 secs from Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel to climb to fourth place in the overall rankings.

Sainz and Lucas Cruz had led the stage for much of the day, but dropped two places when they collected a five-minute penalty after finishing in their Audi for speeding in a restricted zone.

The result saw nine-time World Rally Champion Loeb continuing his rise up the rankings following a series of earlier setbacks, while Al Attiyah extended his outright advantage to 1hr 3mins 46secs over Toyota team-mate, South African Henk Lategan.

For the fourth day in a row, three Prodrive Hunters finished in the top ten, with Guerlain Chicherit and Alex Winocq clocking the sixth best time and Vaidotas Zala with Paulo Fiuza in tenth spot.

Loeb’s second stage win, and the third for BRX following Chicherit’s victory last Tuesday, gave the Frenchman another World Rally-Raid Championship points boost as the power of the Prodrive Hunter again shone through.

Starting off through stony valleys, the stage broke out across the dunes up to the refuelling station, with the rest of the route setting a tough test of navigation along fast tracks and long valley sections.

It became the scene of another gripping Dakar battle between the world’s best drivers, with Loeb setting the early pace before Sainz grabbed the initiative and Al Attiyah stayed in the hunt to keep the outcome uncertain to the finish.

With tomorrow being a rest day, the crews will enjoy some well-earned relaxation before the Dakar action returns with the 358km ninth stage on Tuesday.

There will be little rest, however, for the remainder of the 67-strong BRX team in Saudi. They will work round the clock to prepare the three Prodrive Hunters, each running on EcoPower fuel, created by Coryton, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 80% compared to petrol.

Source: Bahrain News Agency

HEC Secretary-General receives AACSB regional head

Manama, Higher Education Council (HEC) Secretary-General and Vice Chairperson of its Board of Trustees Dr. Shaikha Rana bint Isa bin Daij Al Khalifa received Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) Regional Head of the Middle East and Africa based in Amsterdam Ihsan Zakri.

The meeting discussed ways to enhance cooperation between higher education institutions and AACSB.

It highlighted the accreditation conditions that must be met for higher education institutions to obtain the association’s accreditation.

The secretary-general stressed the importance of higher education establishments obtaining accreditation from various international institutions concerned with undergraduate and graduate studies to develop academic literacy and the level of higher education establishments.

Source: Bahrain News Agency