UPDATE 2-Benin delays presidential poll to review lists

* Top court grants one-week delay to review voter lists

* Parliament had earlier passed law to correct errors

* President set to support short delay

(Recasts with court authorising delay)

By Samuel Elijah

COTONOU, March 4 (Reuters) – Benin’s top legal body has
authorised a one-week delay to this weekend’s presidential
election so that complaints about voter cards and election lists
can be resolved.

The poll, due to take place on Sunday having already been
rescheduled once, will now be held on March 13, according to a
decision reached by Benin’s Constitutional Court on Friday and
seen by Reuters.

President Boni Yayi must approve any delay, but his
spokesman had said earlier on Friday that he would support it.
Parliament had also passed a law to correct errors in the voter
lists.

Benin, a top regional cotton producer with a population of 9
million, is one of the few countries in Africa’s “coup belt” to
have successfully held free and fair elections, winning
international praise.

But many voters and opposition parties had complained that
millions had been unable to register for the election, or had
yet to receive voter cards, and the African Union and the United
Nations on Thursday called for a delay.

The poll was originally set for Feb. 27, then postponed to
March 6.

Opposition parties said the registration lists omitted
nearly 1.3 million potential voters.

“Since the start of the distribution of electoral cards, we
have been waiting our turn to get one, but no one is here to
explain why we don’t have them,” said Leilatou Aboudou, a voter
in the Godomey district near Cotonou.

Maximilian Tossa, in charge of a polling station in a
district in Cotonou, said:

“With an incomplete electoral list, voters without cards,
and equipment not delivered, it is unthinkable that we can hold
elections on Sunday.”

The court decision said the delay had been authorised to
ensure that an orderly election could be held.

Spokesman Marcel de Souza said the president was in favour
of a postponement as long as the constitutional period of his
mandate, which ends on April 5, was respected.

“Our candidate is committed to the constitutional deadline
but if an extension is necessary, he will respect it,” de Souza
told a news conference.