Event

After opposition parties were banned from contesting, the parties close to president Talon claimed every seat following the legislative elections held on 28 April, giving them total control over the assembly. The turnout was merely 27%, the lowest level since the country’s transition to democracy in the early 1990s. Benin was considered a pocket of calm with an exemplary democratic tradition. Over the past week, it has seen public anger leading to protests and violent confrontations.  

Impact

President Talon, a wealthy businessman outside the political establishment, was elected in 2016. Ever since, he gradually became more authoritarian, cracking down on dissidents and free media. In March 2019, the five opposition parties were banned from participating after they failed to meet a recently introduced requirement that parties must own USD 428,000 to be allowed to participate in the polls. Subsequent protests against the implicit opposition ban were led by two former presidents Nicéphore Soglo and Thomas Yayi Boni, and resulted in arbitrary detentions and a clampdown on dissidents. Moreover, on election day internet was shut down. Since 2 May, violence erupted in Cotonou between security forces and protesters who are demanding the termination of the electoral process. Former President Yayi Boni’s house was surrounded by security forces and three people have allegedly been killed during demonstrations. Civil rights groups and international observers (United States and African Union) expressed their concerns about the electoral process. 

These elections are a great setback for democracy in a country where political freedom and civil liberties got deeply implanted in society since the first multi-party election was held in the early 1990s. Talon’s political reputation has been damaged and could lead to international condemnation if today’s impasse leads to further instability. The outlook for Credendo’s political violence risk classification (currently in category 3/7) has turned negative and a downgrade is likely in the future.

Analyst: Louise Van Cauwenbergh – l.vancauwenbergh@credendo.com