Benin is a country located in the region of Western Africa. Popular dissatisfaction with high unemployment, the country’s poor economy and a series of corruption scandals led President Boni Yayi to lose the 2016 election against businessman Patrice Talon. But President Talon’s policies have also triggered social unrest.
After being re-elected for a second five-year term in 2011, President Yayi appointed one of his confidants, Pascal Irénée Koupaki, as head of government. Koupaki would do the day-to-day government work while the president would still have the last say. But already two years later, in August 2013, Koupaki and large parts of the government resigned and the new government that took office shortly thereafter did not include any prime minister.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Benin, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
It was rumored that Koupaki’s reason for leaving was that he had links with Patrice Talon, who had previously been one of Yayi’s allies but was now suspected of conspiring against the president. Talon was accused, among other things, of planning to poison Yayi. He was also linked to what was said to be a planned coup attempt. Opposition politicians claimed that the conspiracies were invented by Yayi as a way to approach political opponents.
At the end of 2013 and in 2014, the country was characterized by social unrest. A contributing reason was that, in December 2013, security forces used force to quell a peaceful government-critical demonstration organized by trade unions. The fact that local elections were postponed again and again also triggered repeated street protests from the opposition. A reversal of the electoral length extended over time. Only in the summer of 2015 could the election be held.
Demonstrations were also going on against Yayi’s attempts to implement the constitution. Among other things, the president wanted to make amends in the constitution to form a court that would review the state accounts, but the proposal encountered opposition in Parliament. The opposition feared that Yayi would try to seize the opportunity and allow the president to sit in power for three terms instead of two. In the autumn of 2014, the Constitutional Court decided that the number of terms of office should not be changed.
Change of presidential post
Despite this, rumors continued that Yayi was trying to introduce a third term in the campaign to mark the campaign ahead of the April 2015 parliamentary alliance. The opposition alliance Union makes the nation (UN) remained second largest but backed even more than FCBE, from 41 to 13 seats. A few months later, Yayi reappointed a prime minister, the French-born banker Lionel Zinsou.
Prime Minister Zinsou was the FCBE candidate in the March 2016 presidential election, but he was defeated by Patrice Talon, who ran as an independent candidate. Talon received about two-thirds of the votes in the second round of elections.
Following its entry, Talon launched a five-year plan to revitalize Benin’s economy through privatizations and major investments in various infrastructure projects, including improvements in electricity and water supply. However, Talon’s reforms, especially the privatization of the port of the capital, met resistance gradually. As of the summer of 2017, extensive public sector demonstrations and strikes were held against Talon’s reforms. Employees at hospitals, schools and courts strike in protest against high living costs and low wages. Opposition parties, community organizations and trade unions objected to what they described as “uncontrolled privatization” and “arbitrary redundancies”.
Talon’s attempt to change the constitution so that the president could only sit for a term also ran into patrol. The proposal was voted down in Parliament on the grounds that if the president cannot be re-elected, he or she cannot be held accountable for his or her policies.
Parliamentary elections without opposition
In April 2019, a parliamentary election was held in which only the two presidential parties Progressive Union and the Republican bloc were allowed to participate. The reason was that no other parties had met the high administrative requirements that were introduced in the fall of 2018 for parties that want to participate in elections. It was the first time since democracy was restored in 1991 that Benin held a parliamentary election without opposition.
Demonstrations against the election were held but quickly dispelled by police. Amnesty International warned that the wave of arbitrary arrests of opposition supporters and journalists, as well as the crackdown on peaceful demonstrations, had reached an alarmingly high level. The Internet and social media were blocked during parts of the election day.
The election results showed that the Progressive Union won 56 percent of the vote (47 of the 83 seats), while the Republican bloc took home 44 percent (36 seats). Voter turnout was as low as 27 percent, as many Beninis boycotted the election on the opposition.
The announcement of the election results triggered two days of crowds in Coutonou. At least four people were killed when soldiers fired at the protesters. According to the opposition, seven protesters were killed.
In June, Boni Yayi left the country after being put into house arrest in practice. Two months later, Lionel Zinsou, former prime minister and candidate in the 2016 presidential election, was sentenced to six months in prison for violating the rules of the election campaign. Zinsou was banned from running for election for the next five years. Zinsou, who lives in France, is one of the foremost opposition politicians in Benin. In doing so, Talon had destroyed another two competitors for power.
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FACTS – POLITICS
Republic of Benin/Republic of Benin
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Patrice Talon (2016–)
Head of government
President Patrice Talon (2016–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Progressive Union 47, Republican Block 36 (2019)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
The cauric forces for a prominent Benin (FCBE) 33, The Union makes the nation (UN) 13, Democratic Renewal 10, The Alliance for Benin’s Rebirth – Patriotic Awakening 7, Others Together 20 (2015)
27% in the 2019 parliamentary elections, 65% in the second round of the 2016 presidential election, 66% in the 2015 parliamentary elections
parliamentary elections 2023, presidential elections 2021