Sunday, February 20, 2011


As the West African State of Benin is due to hold its next presidential elections on March 6, the incumbent President Boni Yayi, outsider and unknown figure before the 2006 presidential elections in which, he took many by surprise by being in the lead with more than 35% of the vote, according to the first round results, is to face fierce opposition from a broad base coalition.  

Boni Yayi was elected in the March 2006, after a campaign during which he promised to combat corruption, restore rule of law, strengthen democratic institutions, and promote national unity and cohesion, and economic development. Under the former President Mathieu Kerekou, who ruled Benin the first time, from October 1972 to April 1991 under a military dictatorship and the second time, from April 1996 to April 2006 under democratic regime, corruption has caused the people to reject the main political leaders who could succeed him.

In 2006 when came the end of Mathieu Kerekou's second term, Boni Yayi was the head of a regional bank and was not known as a real political leader. But, that was his most important asset at the time since the Beninese people were willing to elect someone that had no ties with politicians.

Therefore, Boni Yayi's victory in 2006 was seen by many observers as the rejection of the traditional political elites by the people who wanted change in the way the country's affairs were run. However, Boni Yayi, after giving signs of real willingness of change during few months by sacking some of his ministers on the charges of corruption and wrongdoings, seemed to have backed down from his initial pledges concerning good governance. Series of corruption scandals had marked Boni Yayi's rule.

Moreover, he was unable to form a large coalition that could support his policy. After the March 2008 local elections in which he tried unsuccessfully to unseat from his position of Cotonou Mayor, the former President Nicephore Soglo, who governed the country from April 1991 to April 1996 and was among his main backers in 2006, Boni Yayi lost the support of Soglo's Benin Rebirth Party that joined the opposition. With other major political parties that have their fief in the South, Soglo formed a coalition named UN. This coalition’s candidate is Adrien Houngbedji who, as Boni Yayi’s main contender in 2006, came second behind him by winning 25% of the vote. This former Speaker of the Parliament is an international lawyer and is well-known for being a skillful politician.

Apart from the fact that Boni Yayi has to face this growing opposition, he also has to deal with the split of his power base that is the Northern region of the country. Another regional banker from the North, Bio Tchane seems to be doing well in this region too. In the Parliament Bio Tchane has managed to win the support of many MPs.

Anyway, the former Benin President is likely to be among these three contenders despite the fact that 14 candidates stands for president in this March 6 elections.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Tension in the West African state of Benin over the upcoming presidential elections due to be held on March 6.

Tension between the parliamentarians of opposition and the ones of the ruling coalition rose Thursday 16, when the session convened to appoint at local level the  members of the Electoral Commission due to organize the poll was about to start.

One opposition MP claimed the Speaker was in breach of the internal procedure rule by deciding to begin working without the presence of two Parliamentary Secretaries. He threatened to prevent the Speaker from opening the debate if he carried on despite the absence the two secretaries. He then walked towards the Speaker who ordered his guards to prevent him and even beat him, according to reports from local news papers.

The parliamentarian was joined by his colleagues of the opposition to vehemently criticize the Speaker’s attempt to resume work without the Parliamentary Secretaries while the ruling parties’ MPs reacted angrily. It then followed exchanges of insults and verbal confrontations. However, the Parliament could not resume work since the opposition MPs continued with their protest by making loud noise preventing the Speaker from carrying on. Outside the Parliament compound were stationed armed soldiers that prevented the public from entering.

The main reason behind this tension is the upcoming presidential elections scheduled to take place on March 6. The opposition accuses the government of preparing the conditions for vote rigging and fraud. The deadline provided by electoral law for the voter registry to be ready expired while the enrollment is far from being completed. There are reports confirmed by the CPS-LEPI, the body entrusted to register the voters that more than 1.3 million citizens empowered by the Constitution to vote were not included in the process. Other registered voters find their names on the registry but far from their location, even in a different city or region from where they are supposed to take part in the poll.

Initially, the poll was to due to take place on February 27 but was postponed because these different problems related to the voter registry were not solved. However, the opposition points out that according to the electoral law the voter registry should have been available, if the poll had had to be held on March 6. Once available the voter registry must be certified by independent experts to make sure it does not allow frauds. Meanwhile 11 candidates among the 13 that stand for president in the elections call for further postponement of the poll to allow the voter registry to be fully completed.

So far the government does not seem willing to back down from its line which is that the elections must take place on March 6 even if right now the voter registry is not available. The opposition has therefore adopted a strategy consisting of blocking the electoral process by preventing Parliament from appointing the members of the Electoral Commission at the local level.

As the tension between both camps, the opposition and the ruling coalition, has been rising high, many have called for dialogue but it is unlikely the government may compromise. Benin, known to be a stable and peaceful democracy since 1990, seems increasingly to be on the verge chaos. For the time being the so-called International Community cares little and things are going on as if there is no cause for concern but very soon it could be late.