Benin National Assembly is back on track
On Friday, April 17, 2009, in Porto-Novo, at National Assembly, the first ordinary session of the year started amidst an atmosphere of suspicion and defiance.
Alfred Cossi Chodaton
National Assembly has resumed activities. The parliamentary Speaker in his opening address regretted the deterioration of the National Assembly’s image in the public and emphasized the need for restrain and dialogue between the both camps
Opposition MPs boycotted the opening ceremony of this first ordinary session of the year, which was scheduled to take place on Tuesday, April 14, 2009. Only twenty-two (29) MPs turned out against eighty-tree (83) MPs who constitute the National Assembly.
Opposition MPs blame the deteriorating climate on the presidential camp mainly the Speaker of the National Assembly. They alleged that the Speaker has been putting the National Assembly’s independence in jeopardy by allowing the interference of the Presidency and the Constitutional Court.
Many had been wondering whether the National Assembly would resume work after successive postponements of its scheduled meetings. The December 11, 1990 Constitution provides in its article 85 « whenever, at the opening of a session, a quorum of half plus one of members of the National Assembly is not reached, the meeting must be postponed to the third day after. Discussions are valid, whatever the quorum may be»
Therefore even if the opposition MPs did not turn out, the National Assembly would still go on to work and the presidential camp would take advantage of the situation caused by the missing opposition MPs to dictate its wishes regarding the sensitive issues which are pending on this session’s agenda.
On the agenda on this session, there are over 60 issues enrolled. Among these issues, the draft law on the Project of Voters Registry Computerization (in French Liste Electorale Permanente Informatisée: LEPI) that is a high sensitive one. It is mainly LEPI, which is the cause of the tension between both camps as the opposition and the ruling FCBE have been striving to have the majority to influence the outcome of its examination.
National Assembly Speaker also talked about the need for LEPI to be treated as a priority. Still on LEPI, the ruling FCBE issued of statement supporting Civil Society which staged a demonstration over LEPI in front of the Parliament in Porto-Novo on Tuesday, April 14, 2009, to raise public awareness and to put pressure on the MPs. In its statement, the ruling FCBE also warned the opposition against any attempt to block or delay the vote of LEPI.
However, Civil Society leaders have expressed suspicion and doubt about National Assembly’s willingness, mainly about the Speaker’s willingness to work for LEPI implementation since he has failed to meet them during their demonstration.
Lately, it has been reported that the G13 MP, Rachidi Gbadamassi defects and joins the presidential camp. According to different media sources, he would regret the blockade of the National Assembly staged by opposition coalition, during a press conference held in Parakou. He is said to have legalized a resignation letter from G13 alliance at Parakou Mayor’s office. If this is confirmed, it will be a major blow to opposition, which has been seeking a majority to dominate the Parliament. In addition, the situation will allow the presidential to dictate its wishing in the vote of the law over LEPI.