Benin President Patrice Talon to face two rivals in April election

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Benin President Patrice Talon and only two other candidates will run in the country's presidential election in April, electoral authorities said Friday.

A total of 20 would-be candidates officially handed in their documents to run for the presidency, but the electoral commission said only the three chosen had met the necessary requirements.

Many opposition figures are already in exile or barred from office in Benin, a West African state which critics say has veered into authoritarianism under Talon.

Talon, a cotton magnate in power since 2016, will face former minister Alassane Soumano for the opposition FCBE party and Corentin Kohoue, a dissident opposition figure.

The opposition says the ballot is already fixed in favour of Talon, especially because of an electoral law reform requiring each candidate to be formally sponsored by 16 mayors or members of parliament.

"He chose to select his opponents from among his allies and refused to compete with candidates capable of beating him at the ballot box," said Joel Aivo the candidate for part of the divided opposition who was one of those whose candidacy was rejected.

Talon supporters say the conditions are in place for a fair election.

On Tuesday, several opposition figures warned a visiting United Nations envoy that the conditions imposed by Talon's government could undermine the credibility of the election.

During parliamentary elections in 2019, no opposition parties were allowed to present lists of candidates for the vote.

Part of the divided opposition has founded a coalition, the Front for the Restoration of Democracy, to join forces behind Aivo against Talon.