Benin could be emerging from the deepest political crisis since the establishment of democracy in 1990. On January 8, generally peaceful legislative elections were held, unlike the 2019 polls, in which violent protests against the exclusion of the opposition led to at least four. dead. That crisis tarnished the country’s image as an example of democracy in West Africa.
Although voter turnout is maintained this month low (37.79 percent), the election is the country’s most inclusive since Patrice Talon became president in 2016. It indicates that the opposition has returned to the political arena. absence From the 2019 legislative votes. The main opposition parties also withdrew from the 2020 general elections and the 2021 presidential elections.
Seven parties, including three from the opposition, took part in the January vote: the Democrats, the Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin and the People’s Liberation Movement. Only three achieved the 10 percent threshold needed to win seats in the 109-member Parliament.
The ruling parties – the Progressive Union for Renewal (UPR) and the Republican Bloc (BR) – obtained 37.56% and 29.23% of the votes respectively, and obtained 81 seats. This gives Talon an absolute majority in Parliament to continue his policies without much hindrance. The Democrats came in third with 24.16 percent and 28 seats.
Democrats – led by former president Thomas Boni Yayi – compete results, submitting several appeals to the Constitutional Court. Among the problems they have raised are the massive voter corruption on election day and the stuffing of ballot boxes in favor of the two ruling parties.
Although the Constitutional Court recognized the irregularities in some polling stations, it said that “they were not such as to jeopardize the validity, honesty and transparency of the vote”, and rejected the dominance of the Democrats. the appeal. The party should continue to use legal means to prevent such electoral violence in 2019 and 2021.
The return of the opposition increases the legitimacy of the Parliament, ensuring that different political voices will be heard in the National Assembly after four years of opposition absence. Members of the 9th Legislature will also play a role in deciding the eligibility of candidates for the 2026 presidential election, as Talon’s second term ends. The President announced That he would not run for a third term in 2021, according to the two-term limit of the constitution.
Presidential and Presidential candidates must be supported by at least 16 members of parliament and/or mayors. Although the two ruling parties control 70 of the 77 that exist the mayor’s officesThe recent election of 28 Democratic deputies increases the chances of opposition candidates running in the 2026 presidential poll.
Having Democrats in the Legislature will avoid a 2021 presidential election scenario that was criticized as a foregone conclusion. Many observers interpreted it as a maneuver by Talon to secure his re-election by marginalizing political opponents.
The National Assembly elections in January also marked a significant advance in women’s political representation, with 28 out of 109 seats. assign to women, on the other hand six for the outgoing Parliament. This important step was made possible by the new provisions of the electoral code and the 2019 constitution. The real challenge remains the effective participation of women in decision-making and political life in general, including in political parties. The new parliament should give priority to updating the 2008 national gender policy.
After four years of politics the tension, stakeholders organizing the 2026 communal, legislative and presidential elections in Benin should take lessons from previous polls. The effectiveness of the controversial electoral and institutional reforms adopted since 2018 must also be reviewed. These include the April 2018 Digital Code in the Republic of Benin, the Charter of Political Parties and the November 2019 Electoral Code.
Although they aimed to clean up the party system, improve elections and strengthen democracy, some reforms encouraged mistrust and deepened the crisis of trust between political actors. This was because they were approved by a Parliament fully controlled by the two ruling parties, leading to the exclusion of the main opposition for three consecutive elections from 2019.
This weakened public interest in the elections, and the subsequent low voter turnout raised doubts about the representation of the electorate in the last four elections. The ambiguity surrounding certain provisions of the Charter of Political Parties and the Electoral Code has also damaged the credibility of the institutions responsible for organizing elections.
On February 12, the sworn deputies must prioritize the interests of the country. They must work together to maintain social cohesion, strengthen democracy and the rule of law and promote the development of Benin.
As a collective, they must also solve the security crisis in the north of the country. This requires reducing the vulnerabilities exploited by violent extremists. Benin’s peace and stability depend on it.
Jeannine Ella Abatan, Senior Researcher, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) West Africa, Sahel and Lake Chad Basin Regional Office
(This article was first published By ISS Today, Premium Times syndicate partner. We have their permission to republish).
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