Benin votes in key test for President Boni Yayi

2015-04-26 13:17

(File) (Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cotonou - Benin headed to the polls on Sunday in legislative elections seen as a key test for President Thomas Boni Yayi, whose controversial plans to change the constitution to extend his rule may be crushed if the opposition makes gains.

About 4.4 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots to pick 83 lawmakers.

Boni Yayi has led the small west African nation since 2006 and his two-term limit expires next year.

The president has said his constitutional amendment project is aimed at ending impunity for corruption by strengthening the justice system.

But the opposition insists his actual motive is to scrap term limits so he can run again in 2016.

Reform dispute

The battle over the proposed amendment has shaped the election.

A west Africa specialist based in Dakar, Gilles Yabi, said: "The challenge for the ruling party is to have a large majority in the national assembly, which will allow the president to realise consitutional reforms and maybe authorise (his) third term."

Political analyst Rock Sosthene Nepo said the near total focus on the purported third-term plot has pushed major issues to the back-burner.

"Serious debate on public projects is non-existent or at least diminished" because of the constitutional reform dispute, he said.

Benin boasts a relatively strong democratic record compared to other countries in turbulent west Africa.

But it is grappling with issues seen across the region: corruption and the challenge of ensuring the poor see some benefits of economic growth.

Analysts said the emphasis on Boni Yayi's possible third-term was to be expected after the revolution late last year in neighbouring Burkina Faso, which saw long-serving president Blaise Compaore toppled after he tried to abolish term limits.

Boni Yayi has not voiced a desire to run again but "he has created the impression of a president in a permanent campaign", fuelling opposition claims that he will not stand down, Yabi said.

Fielding candidates

Boni Yayi's Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin party (FCBE) has lost its majority in the national assembly following a series of recent defections to the opposition, but experts warn against attributing that to rising opposition strength.

Politics in Benin are "very poorly structured", said Yabi, adding that "political migrations" are common in campaign season and lawmakers are happy to switch sides if they think it will boost their re-election prospects.

The opposition ranks are fractured, more than 20 parties are fielding candidates, and the election has hardly gripped the nation.

Boni Yayi has tried to boost his international profile through his second term, shuttling across the continent while serving as head of the African Union in 2012.

Read more on:    benin  |  west africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.