In Summary
  • Election watchdogs last month ruled that only two parties, both allied to President Patrice Talon, met toughened conditions of admissibility under new electoral laws.

  • Their decision effectively barred the entire political opposition from fielding candidates.

  • Before 1991, Benin struggled under decades of authoritarian rule.

BENIN,

Benin votes for a new parliament on April 28, but a country that was once seen as a model of democracy in Africa is facing a worrying political crisis.

Voters in the small West African state will get only one choice of members of parliament — for the first time in three decades, the opposition will not take part.

Election watchdogs last month ruled that only two parties, both allied to President Patrice Talon, met toughened conditions of admissibility under new electoral laws.

Their decision effectively barred the entire political opposition from fielding candidates.

"This is the first time that opposition parties will not be taking part in legislative elections since the return of the democratic era in 1991," said Steve Kpoton, a lawyer and political analyst.

POLITICAL COMPETITION

Before 1991, Benin struggled under decades of authoritarian rule.

The transition to democracy brought a flowering of political competition — five years ago, voters could chose from 20 parties for the 83 seats in parliament.

But this year, lawmakers from the ruling party pushed through a new electoral code.

Critics say the rules were too tough and bureaucratic, and opposition parties failed to meet all the administrative requirements in time.

PUBLIC ANGER

Eric Houndete, deputy speaker of parliament and the leader of an opposition coalition, warned of public anger.

"Benin will not allow 83 personal deputies of the head of state to be appointed to parliament," he said.

Public protests have been broken up by security forces.

Talon, elected in 2016, portrays himself as reformer and modernist.

He defended the electoral code, saying it would bring together the scores of political parties into simpler blocs.

Page 1 of 2