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.

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