Country Report Benin April 2008

The political scene: There has been strong criticism from the opposition

The president, Boni Yayi, reached his second year in office on April 6th without much fanfare. There was, however, a cloud of controversy, as the four opposition parties that had chosen to co-operate with the president's Force cauris pour un Bénin émergent (FCBE) in the legislature lashed out at Mr Yayi's leadership in an electoral move calculated to win more support at the key local and municipal elections being held on April 20th. Describing a "total disenchantment and the beginnings of disillusionment", Léhady Soglo of Renaissance du Bénin (RB), Adrien Houngbédji of the Parti du renouveau démocratique (PRD), Bruno Amoussou of the Parti social démocrate (PSD) and d'Antoine Kolawolé Idji from the Mouvement africain pour la démocratie et le progrès (MADEP) laid out their 12 criticisms of what they saw as "threats" to democracy from Mr Yayi's government. On March 12th they presented their criticisms of his government's treatment of the press and unions, and the political dominance of the presidency over the other institutions of government.

This move has not yet signalled any great shift in Benin's electoral alliances, as none of the parties that criticised Mr Yayi has chosen to revoke its co-operation with the governing FCBE in the National Assembly. However, the four opposition parties (RB, PRD, PSD and MADEP), which together hold 30 seats in the 83-seat assembly, received the support of the 13 non-FCBE members of parliament (MPs)-the so-called G-13-including four MPs of the Forces Clés, which had previously not been affiliated to any political grouping. This could potentially provoke a crisis in parliament, as a majority of MPs have now made clear their dissatisfaction with the FCBE.

With Mr Yayi hailing from the north and the opposition parties from the south, the opposition parties saw it as important to mark their differences with the president in order to ward off any potential victory by allies of Mr Yayi in key local elections, especially that of the mayor of Cotonou, a traditional stronghold of the RB. Rather than causing the FCBE and its allies to lose their parliamentary majority, the opposition move is likely to elicit concessions from the FCBE in terms of ministerial positions and the management of parliamentary affairs.

© 2008 The Economist lntelligence Unit Ltd. All rights reserved
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