Country Report Benin April 2008

The political scene: Local and municipal elections are to take place in late April

Political, financial and administrative difficulties have plagued Benin's national and local elections for the past few years, and the problem continues. Local and municipal elections scheduled for February 18th have been postponed twice and are now set to be held on April 20th. The president of the Commission électorale nationale autonome (CENA; the autonomous national electoral commission), Pascal Todjinou, claims that the elections will cost CFAfr7.4bn (US$16.4m) and that the national budget at first only proposed CFAfr4.7bn, then raising the total allocated to CFAfr5.4bn. Behind the battle over the final costs have been administrative quarrels between the Ministry of Finance and CENA as to who will control the budget after it has been allocated.

As a sign of the intense political contentions surrounding the organisation of the elections, CENA's board has been reprimanded by the Supreme Court three times for politicisation and violating CENA's own bylaws. Problems of electoral organisation will continue as long as the management of CENA and associated bodies is politically contested and the state is unwilling or unable to provide the finance to hold elections on schedule and on budget. The president of the Supreme Court, Conceptia Ouinsou, has pointed to this fact, arguing that the "politicisation and the lack of probity" of members of the electoral commission continue to undermine public faith in the institution.

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