Explainer 164: What happened to democracy in Benin?

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

There are few sites so stirring, and hopeful as a free fair and transparent election in a country unaccustomed to holding them. There are few spectacle, so wretched and disheartening botched rigged and violent election in a country that was growing into democracy Benin used to have the former kind of election. It has just had one of the latter. And the Beninese citizens who got used to the idea of voting for their leaders are left wondering whether the country has mealy taken a wrong turn or performed a complete one hundred eighty degree handbrake skid back in the direction of dictatorship. Benin's most recent parliamentary election was held on April twenty eighth the results which were announced last week looked at least to anyone who only read the headlines like a fumbling endorsement of the progressive union a coalition led by veteran politician, Bruno Musso and closely allied to president patriots talent the progressive union one fifty six percent of the vote comfortably but not overwhelmingly ahead of their rivals from the Republican block who won forty four percent on the face of it a splendid victory for pluralist democracy. The problem is that the vanquished Republican block are also closely allied to president Patrice tell on who not content with having money each way in this fashion over sorry process, which reduced the contest to a two-horse race may new electoral code was introduced a head of the elections the rules and requirements of which was so strict and expensive to meet that bias, Donna Shing, coincidence, only the two groupings favored by president on qualified. Nobody else was permitted to compete. The rationale for the new rules for what it may be worth was essentially that Benin was suffering from a surfeit of democracy that a small west African nation of some twelve million people had become bamboozled by proliferation of more than two hundred fifty political parties, even organized into various blocks alliances and coalitions this still left voters at Benin's previous parliamentary elections in two thousand fifteen choosing from a field of twenty. But at least they had a choice of which they generally availed themselves at the two thousand fifteen parliamentary election turnout was around sixty six percent about what it was when Benin elected president talent in two thousand and sixteen for this latest election barely one registered voter in for bothered. And indeed you kind of have to wonder why one in four did. It's a shame for all the obvious reasons but much more. So because one does not need a long memory to recall Benin seeming, something of a Pathfinder for democracy in west Africa. Domain through pity? What in nineteen Ninety-one president Matthew Carrico who had seized power in an old school data in nineteen seventy two became the first leader in the region to stand down after losing an election. He was re elected in nineteen ninety six and served. Another decade. So this looks like a straightforward power grab by president talent or those close to him but to extend some credit where do this would not be consistent with his previous behavior in two thousand seventeen he tried and failed to persuade the national assembly to restrict presidents to a single six-year term as recently as April President talented, mid the new electoral law was not a good look stating accurately that it bought discredit on Benin's democracy and on himself. If only president Telo knew someone who could perhaps do something about it, a politician occupying position of influence, for example. The news emerging from Benin in recent days has not been encouraging soldiers have been seen on the streets incidents of violence. Some fatal have been reported on and around election day, the internet was cut off and before it several journalists and opposition activists were arrested. Members of Benin's barely elected new national assembly a Jew to be sworn in next week, the incoming MP's may discover that the price you pay for lack of opposition is deducted in legitimacy. Nobody has ever thanked those who took vote away from them. Article twenty four around.

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