In Benin, the opposition enters the National Assembly but contests the results

Under a shed in the courtyard where the Autonomous National Electoral Commission (CENA) sits, dozens of bags are piled on top of each other. Inside are the ballots, stamps, registers and bottles of indelible ink used in the legislative elections organized on Sunday. Under military escort, all the electoral material was transported through Benin to Cotonou, the economic capital. In a room of the CENA located next to the courtyard where the bulky bags are stored, Sacca Lafia, president of the electoral council, gave the results of the ballot on Wednesday January 11.

On January 8, 2023, counting began in a polling station after the legislative ballot in Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin.

After four years of absence, the opposition returns to the National Assembly. With 24.2% of the vote, the Democrats (LD) won 28 seats, as many as the Republican Bloc (29.17% of the vote), but almost half as many as the Union Progressive-Renouveau (53 seats; 37.5 %). These last two formations, close to the presidential movement, confirm the stranglehold of President Patrice Talon on the political spectrum since his first election in April 2016. But, with a participation rate of 38.6%, the poll did not mobilized the Beninese.

For The Democrats, the party co-founded by former President Thomas Boni Yayi, this entry into Parliament is crucial, but it does not please anyone. By allocating 28 seats to the movement, the CENA “caused our surprise and disagreement, they said in a statement released overnight. The party rejects this verdict which does not reflect the will of the people to make the Democrats the first political force in the country”. The main opposition party, which denounces “massive corruption of voters through the distribution of banknotes and flagrant ballot box stuffing”filed appeals with the Constitutional Court which must make the results final on Friday. “The party urges activists to calm and serenity while awaiting its opinion, wrote the leaders of the movement. He invites them to be ready for any watchword that would be appropriate in the face of the situation. »

“Intimidation and Threats”

Even if the Democrats win in the cities of Cotonou and Parakou, the disappointment lives up to the hopes that their list had raised. In 2019, due to a new legislative framework, the opposition could not present itself, giving rise to a Parliament “monocolor”. These legislative elections had been marked by violence causing at least two deaths, record abstention (more than 70%) and an Internet shutdown, rare occurrences in a country renowned for its stability and democratic vigor.

Four years later, the Democrats had received the final receipt on November 18, 2022 which authorized them to participate in Sunday’s election after a veritable administrative marathon, the list having first been rejected (due to missing tax certificates for four candidates ), before being fished out in extremis by a judgment of the Constitutional Court and then to obtain the green light from the CENA.

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All hopes were allowed then. According to his own estimates, the party was to become “the first of Benin”, even promised Eric Houndété, president of the Democrats, during a press conference organized the day after the vote. ” The legislative elections took place in a peaceful atmosphere despite intimidation and threats, deplored, however, the former vice-president of the National Assembly, who hoped to win around sixty seats in Parliament. The party is closely following the unfolding of the post-election process. »

With 28 seats, will the Democrats (LD) be able to influence political life? Only the Progressive Union-Renewal (UP-R), the Republican Bloc (BR) and LD will share the seats in Parliament, all three having won more than 10% of the vote, the threshold required to enter the National Assembly. Negotiations with the two other parties promise to be complex, the opposition’s first objective being to pass an amnesty law for political prisoners. Reckya Madougou, former Minister of Justice and former Democratic candidate for the 2021 presidential election, was sentenced to twenty years in prison for “terrorist financing”. The CRIET, a special court that the president’s opponents consider instrumentalized, also sentenced the constitutionalist Joël Aïvo to ten years in prison for “conspiracy against state authority”.

“An insult to intelligence”

“The people are fed up with the governance of President Talon, wrote Nadine Okoumassoun, spokesperson for the Democrats, on her Facebook page. There is no question for me of accepting this result which constitutes an insult to the intelligence of Beninese. »

Patrice Talon has launched vast development projects in his country, in sectors as varied as sport, tourism or the digitization of the administration. “The election consolidates our position as leader, welcomes Orden Alladatin, member of the national executive direction of the UP-R. It also shows that the political class which supports President Talon is in the majority since it obtains 81 seats. [sur 109, dont 24 réservés aux femmes selon le nouveau Code électoral]. The Democrats participated in this election and it is a good thing, because there is no democracy without opposition. I now ask them to respect the results of the ballot boxes and the democratic game. »

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These legislative elections come as the mandate of the six judges of the Constitutional Court ends this year, and the next presidential election will take place in 2026. Three of its members are appointed by the deputies, three others by the president. Patrice Talon announced that he would not run again and even had it engraved in the Constitution that a president could not serve more than two terms. Could the new strong majority that his party obtained in Parliament make him change his mind? “Everything he does is to encourage the development of the country, replies Orden Alladatin. These elections show that the people support the reforms they have undertaken. There is no question of a third term. You shouldn’t speculate on that. »

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