Ganiou Soglo, a former minister and son of ex-president Nicephore Soglo, was wounded on Friday on the way to his farm in Zinvie, 35 km (22 miles) from the country’s commercial capital Cotonou.
A Benin presidential candidate was wounded after gunfire hit his car soon after he formally filed his papers for a presidential election in April against incumbent Patrick Talon, family members and the government said on Saturday.
He was one of 19 politicians who filed papers for the April 11 ballot.
“He was shot in the shoulder, but his prognosis is not guaranteed,” a Soglo family member said from the hospital where he was being treated.
Many Benin opposition figures are either in exile or are barred from running in the election, prompting criticism the former French colony once seen as a model of democracy has veered into authoritarianism under Talon.
Police have opened an investigation but have yet to issue a statement.
Benin government spokesman Alain Orounla condemned the attack and said security forces would apprehend the assailants.
“The government will ensure the diligence of investigations promptly undertaken by the Republican Police services,” he said.
The opposition says the election is already fixed in favour of Talon, especially after a new provision of the electoral law requiring each candidate to be formally sponsored by 16 mayors or members of parliament.
Critics accuse Talon of leading a country once praised for multi-party democracy down an authoritarian road and say he is behind a crackdown that drove key rivals into exile.
During parliamentary elections in April 2019, no opposition parties were allowed to present lists of candidates for the vote.
A year later, only six opposition challengers to sitting mayors won in municipal elections that were boycotted by some opponents.
“Running in a presidential election in Benin today is a nightmare. From shameful exclusionary moves to assassination attempts to threats,” opposition candidate Reckya Madougou said before visiting the hospital.
Some opposition leaders have formed a coalition backing little-known academic Joel Aivo as a single candidate against Talon despite fears the incumbent faces little challenge in the election.