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Benin - Politics

Benin has emerged as one of the most promising examples of political liberalization in West Africa since its successful transition to democracy starting in 1990. The nature of Benins electoral system, an initial round followed by a run-off if no candidate wins a majority, means that not every one of the 40-odd ethnic groups in Benin will have a representative in each contest. Therefore, a great many voters must have some criteria other than pure ethnic matching on which to make their choice, especially in the second round of the vote.

By the time of independence in 1960 the Dahomean pattern of regionalism was fully evolved. It was a three-partite division, North, Center, South, in which any coalition of two against a third was acceptable for the sole purpose of preventing the dominance of any other leader and region. This three-partite regionalism in Dahomean modern politics emerged and remained the essential pattern because it reflected historical patterns and relations.

It was not as important to win as it is crucial not to lose to the historically despised "them". Thus later having the military in power is certainly not a victory for "us" but, more importantly it was not a victory for the "them".

Dahomey was often pointed to as a special case because of its longstanding three-partite regionalism and its relatively large number of coups. What made Dahomey different from most if not all African states was that in Dahomey no civilian leader was successful in excluding all other potential leaders from the political process at an early enough stage. After 18 years of a Marxist regime, from the 1990 national conference, Benin experienced a democratic transition marked by the voluntary departure of President Mathieu Krkou and the election of Nicphore Soglo.

Kerekou's principal opponent at the 1991 presidential poll, and the ultimate victor, was Prime Minister Nicephore Soglo. Supporters of Soglo also secured a majority in the National Assembly. In the 1996 presidential poll Kerekou defeated Soglo, and was reelected in 2001. At the end of his second term in 2006, Kerekou successfully handed power over to Boni Yayi, elected with 75% of the votes cast.

In December 2002, Benin held its first municipal elections since before the institution of Marxism-Leninism. The process was smooth with the significant exception of the 12th district council for Cotonou, the contest that would ultimately determine who would be selected for the mayoralty of the capital city. That vote was marred by irregularities, and the electoral commission was forced to repeat that single election. Nicephore Soglo's Renaisance du Benin (RB) party won the new vote, paving the way for the former president to be elected Mayor of Cotonou by the new city council in February 2002.

On April 20 and May 1, 2008, Benin held its second local and municipal elections, which were marred by fraud allegations and irregularities. Voters filed appeals with the Supreme Court, which nullified results in a number of communes and ordered new elections and recounting of votes in constituencies where results were contested.

Former West African Development Bank Director Boni Yayi won the March 2006 election for the presidency in a field of 26 candidates. International observers including the United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and others called the election free, fair, and transparent. President Kerekou was barred from running under the 1990 constitution due to term and age limits. President Yayi was inaugurated on April 6, 2006.

Yayi, a 58-year-old economist, was seen as a symbol of change when he took office in 2006 in the country dependent on cotton cultivation and its port, but was since weighed down by corruption scandals. One such scandal involved an alleged Ponzi scheme that left thousands without their savings. Yayi was accused of assisting the company involved.

Benin held legislative elections on March 31, 2007 for the 83 seats in the National Assembly. The "Force Cowrie for an Emerging Benin" (FCBE), a coalition of parties closely linked to President Yayi, won a plurality of the seats in the National Assembly, providing the president with considerable influence over the legislative agenda. The G-13 deputies from minor political parties who had joined the FCBE to help President Yayi obtain a majority in the National Assembly subsequently left this coalition and joined undeclared opposition parties, including G4 and Force Cle, forming an unstable though blocking majority.

The administration of reform-minded President Boni Yayi was beset on one hand by the intrigues primarily of opposition party members in the National Assembly that block action on Government of Benin (GOB) proposed legislation, including that to create the National Mediator position, and on the other by rising fuel and food prices to his electoral base. since the March 12, 2008 declaration by four opposition parties (MADEP, PSD, PRD, and RB) (Ref D), political tensions were at levels unprecedented since Yayi's assumption of power in March 2006 (with no end in sight).

Seeking to improve the electoral system, the Government of Benin, with the support of international donors, developed a permanent digital voters list in 2010. In the first election since the list was created, incumbent President Yayi won a second term with 53% of the vote in March 2011. Results announced by the head of the electoral commission in the West African nation showed Yayi had won in the first round with 53 percent of the vote compared to Adrien Houngbedji's 36 percent. The United Nations, ECOWAS, the African Union, and the international community praised Benin for once again holding fair and transparent elections.

Legislative elections were held on April 30, 2011. The FCBE won 41 out of the 83 seats in the National Assembly. Some 3.6 million people are eligible to vote to choose 83 lawmakers from among 1,600 candidates and around 20 parties and coalitions. President Boni Yayi was seeking to end the opposition's majority in parliament. He and his allies control 34 seats compared to the opposition's 49.

Benin's outgoing President Thomas Boni Yayi bowed out after serving a maximum two five-year terms, marking him out from many African leaders who tried to change their country's constitution to stay in power.

The March 2016 election was very open with a record number of candidates (36). The campaign was marked by the involvement of businessmen (Patrice Talon and Sbastien Ajavon). Incumbent Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou finished first in the first round of elections held on 06 March 2016 with 27.1 percent of the vote, compared to 23.5 percent for Businessman and opposition leader Patrice Talon. The prime minister, who was a candidate for Boni Yayi's Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin (FCBE), was seen as the frontrunner with the support of most lawmakers in parliament. Talon, a 57-year-old entrepreneur who made his money in cotton and running Cotonou's port, billed himself as the authentic Beninese candidate and repeatedly attacked his opponent's dual French nationality. Zinsou, who attended an elite French university had been derided as a "yovo", or "the white man", during the campaign.

Talon won Benin's presidential election, claiming 65.39 percent of the vote in 21 March 2016 run-off poll, according to the countrys electoral commission. Zinsou conceded defeat earlier on Monday before the commission announced the official results. "I called Patrice Talon tonight to congratulate him on his victory and wish him luck," Zinsou said in a statement. Some 4.7 million people were eligible to cast their ballots in the vote to elect a successor to President Thomas Boni Yayi.

The election took place in a calm atmosphere with a high turnout (66% of those in the second round), and many observers did not find any major incidents. Despite their past enmity, the outgoing President and his successor passed on power peacefully.

While campaigning on the theme of the transition, the Beninese president had a proactive policy, especially on the front of corruption. On 16 December 2016, Talon presented his government's action plan, which is based on 45 flagship projects for a total of 9,030 billion CFA francs, ie 13.8 billion euros. The goal of its action plan is to create 500,000 jobs in five years.

There were a large number of public and private media outlets, including two public and five private television stations, one public and 50 private radio stations, and approximately 175 newspapers and periodicals. Many of these were openly critical of authorities, nearly always without consequence.

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