Lionel Zinsou heads a record 48 candidates seeking to contest next month's Benin presidential election
Cotonou (AFP) - A record 48 candidates have applied to contest next month's presidential election in the west African nation of Benin, the electoral agency said on Wednesday.
"We received 52 nomination papers but only 48 of them were completely filled," the head of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Emmanuel Tiando, told reporters.
Among them are the current Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou, a French-Beninese investment banker who has been nominated as the ruling party FCBE (Cowrie Forces for an Emerging Benin) candidate.
Some critics claimed Zinzou was "parachuted" in by former colonial power France, where he has spent most of his career.
He has said he has the support of other big political parties, such as the PRD of lawyer Adrien Houngbedji, current head of Benin's parliament, who came second in the last election in 2011.
Seven members of the FCBE have applied to run in the February 28 poll.
The largest opposition coalition Union Makes the Nation (UN) party has not put forward a candidate but the deputy head of parliament, Eric Houndete, wants to stand as an independent.
Patrice Talon, a cotton tycoon, and food magnate Sebastien Ajavon are also in the race along with four women.
"We have never recorded 48 nominations for presidential election since 1990 (when multi-party politics was introduced after decades of military rule)," political analyst Agapit Napoleon told AFP.
"It is indeed a proof that our political parties have turned full circle."
The electoral agency has eight days after the filing of nomination papers to study the documents following the payment of 15 million CFA francs ($25,000, 23,000 euros) by each aspirant.
The constitutional court will within 10 days study and give final approval to the candidates who have met the requirements to contest the election.