Africa > West Africa > Benin > Benin Government Profile

Benin: Benin Government Profile

2015/02/24

President: Thomas Boni Yayi

President: Thomas Boni Yayi

Thomas Boni Yayi won presidential elections in March 2006, and again in 2011. He won 75% of the votes in the 2006 polls, but managed only 53% in the 2011 elections. These later polls were postponed twice and their results were disputed by the main challenger, Adrien Houngbedji.

Mr Yayi a former head of the Togo-based West African Development Bank, lost considerable support during an economic downturn and a pyramid investment scheme scandal in 2010. This scandal involved several senior officials, and more than 100,000 people are reported to have lost their money.

Recent years have seen two unverified allegations of plots against the president. In 2012 Mr Yayi said he had survived an attempted poisoning, and police claimed they had foiled a coup attempt against him in March 2013.

Government

Post-Independence Politics

Between 1960 and 1972, a succession of military coups brought about many changes of government. The last of these brought to power Major Mathieu Kerekou as the head of a regime professing strict Marxist-Leninist principles. The Revolutionary Party of the People of Benin (PRPB) remained in complete power until the beginning of the 1990s. Kerekou, encouraged by France and other democratic powers, convened a national conference that introduced a new democratic constitution and held presidential and legislative elections. 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.

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.


Seeking to improve the electoral system, the Government of Benin, with the support of international donors, developed a permanent digital voter’s 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. 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.

Government Type: Republic

Capital: Porto-Novo - 276,000 (2009)

Other major cities: Cotonou (seat of government) - 815,000 (2009)

Administrative Divisions: 12 departments;301px-benin-departments-named.png

Alibori
Atakora
Atlantique
Borgou
Collines
Donga
Kouffo
Littoral
Mono
Oueme
Plateau
Zou

Independence Day: 1 August 1960 (from France)

Legal System: based on French civil law and customary law. Benin has not submitted an International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction declaration; but accepts International Criminal Court (ICCt) jurisdiction.

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

The Beninese authorities have linked both alleged plots to a businessman with ties to the cotton industry, Patrice Talon, who was once a close associate of Mr Yayi.

In 2013, a French court rejected a Beninese request for Mr Talon's extradition.

Born in 1952 into a Muslim family in the north, Mr Yayi later became an evangelical Christian.

His predecessor, former army major Mathieu Kerekou, had led Benin for all but five years after seizing power in 1972. He earned the country the label of "Africa's Cuba" before dropping Marxism in 1990. He was barred by a constitutional age limit from running in 2006.

Benin's president heads the government, the state and the military, and appoints the cabinet.

Government type: 

republic

Administrative divisions: 

12 departments; Alibori, Atakora, Atlantique, Borgou, Collines, Kouffo, Donga, Littoral, Mono, Oueme, Plateau, Zou

Independence: 

1 August 1960 (from France)

National holiday: 

National Day, 1 August (1960)

Constitution: 

adopted by referendum 2 December 1990

Legal system: 

based on French civil law and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 

18 years of age; universal

Legislative branch: 

unicameral National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (83 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve four-year terms) elections: last held 31 March 2007 (next to be held by March 2011) election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - FCBE 35, ADD 20, PRD 10, other and independents 18

Judicial branch: 

Constitutional Court or Cour Constitutionnelle; Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; High Court of Justice

Political parties and leaders : 

Alliance for Dynamic Democracy or ADD; Alliance of Progress Forces or AFP; African Movement for Democracy and Progress or MADEP [Sefou FAGBOHOUN]; Benin Renaissance or RB [Rosine SOGLO]; Democratic Renewal Party or PRD [Adrien HOUNGBEDJI]; Force Cowrie for an Emerging Benin or FCBE; Impulse for Progress and Democracy or IPD [Theophile NATA]; Key Force or FC [Lazare S�HOU�TO]; Movement for the People's Alternative or MAP [Olivier CAPO-CHICHI]; Rally for Democracy and Progress or RDP [Dominique HOUNGNINOU]; Social Democrat Party or PSD [Bruno AMOUSSOU]; Union for the Relief or UPR [Issa SALIFOU]; Union for Democracy and National Solidarity or UDS [Sacca LAFIA] note: approximately 20 additional minor parties

Political pressure groups and leaders: 

other: economic groups; environmentalists; political groups; teachers' unions and other educational groups

International organization participation: 

ACCT, ACP, AfDB, AU, ECOWAS, Entente, FAO, FZ, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MONUC, NAM, OAS (observer), OIC, OIF, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMIL, UNMIS, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WADB (regional), WAEMU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Flag description: 

two equal horizontal bands of yellow (top) and red (bottom) with a vertical green band on the hoist side

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