Benin had legislative elections on Sunday, which are seen as a test of democracy because opposition parties are once again on the ballot. This is due to the parties’ absence from the most recent presidential and legislative elections or their expulsion from those contests. President Patrice Talon of Benin has done much since taking office in 2016 to damage the nation’s standing as a model of democracy and stability in West Africa. President Talon has been putting pressure on his opponents since he broke his promise not to run for reelection.
Seven parties, including the Democratic Party, which has connections to Talon’s opponent and rival Thomas Boni Yayi, are running for the 109 seats in parliament that will be up for grabs on Sunday. In 2019, people who backed Boni Yayi protested because the opposition parties were kicked out of the legislative vote because they couldn’t meet tough new requirements.
In the commercial capital of Cotonou, there were no signs of riots on Sunday morning, and voting locations were calm.
After casting his ballot at a primary school in the city of Cotonou, Talon made these comments: “Now that everyone is anticipating the elections, I can see that the gloomy chapters of our recent political history are finally coming to a close,” Talon stated.
The preliminary results, which are expected to be revealed on January 11, are likely to reflect the might of the political parties fighting to succeed Talon. The following presidential election and the parliament’s subsequent vote are both set for 2026. Even though Talon doesn’t belong to either of the two parties in power in parliament, the Union Progressiste Le Renouveau or the Bloc Républicain, they have both supported him.
There was no obvious indication, according to political analyst Expedit Ologou, president of the Benin think tank Civic Academy for Africa’s Future, that Talon’s choice to run for re-election would spark protests like those that occurred in 2019 or 2021. Ologou claimed that because there are more parties on the ballot, voter turnout could increase to more typical levels of approximately 60% after dipping to just 27% in 2019.
Freedom House, a U.S. group that tracks democracy, said in its 2022 report that under Talon, political protests have been met with deadly police force, and the opposition has been silenced through politicized court actions and other means. Talon has consistently refuted claims that it targets political rivals or violates human rights. The fact that this election will allow participation from all parties this time makes it extremely significant for Benin. Prosper Adoukonou, 72, expressed his desire for smooth operations, harmony, and total transparency after casting his ballot in Cotonou.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, Benin’s agriculture-based economy has rebounded strongly, growing by more than 7% in 2021 and the first half of 2022. Nevertheless, despite having 12 million citizens, the country is still ranked among the least developed in the world. The World Bank estimates that one fifth of the population makes it on less than $2.00 per day.
Al-Qaeda and Islamic State-affiliated extremists are increasingly targeting Benin, Togo, and the Ivory Coast as unrest from the Sahel nations of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger moves south. Voters may be more concerned about security in the area during this election as a result of these events.