Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Drama in Benin's upcoming presidential election UPDATED

Her Spirit may be Rising, but she doesn't seem to be Running
Following the three elections coming up this October, there will be two presidential elections in ECOWAS countries at the beginning of 2016: Niger, where first-term President Issoufou is eligible to run again in January, and Benin in February. 

There's been some interesting drama regarding the Benin race so let's take a look. 

President Yayi Boni is finishing up his second term, so it's an open race. There was speculation that President Yayi wanted to amend the constitution to enable a third term, but his party did poorly in the parliamentary election in May, so that option was shut out. 

The most famous Beninois in the United States is surely Angelique Kidjo, and there was hope among some last year that she would run, but their Facebook page hasn't been updated in ten months so I don't think that's happening. Bummer. 

The recent drama among actual candidates circles around Patrice Talon, who was reportedly going to return to Benin this month after three years in exile in France. Talon spoke of his intentions to run for president in an interview with Radio France International earlier this week. Talon is a businessman accused of embezzling around $20 million from the government's cotton fertilizer subsidy program. President Yayi wants Talon to be prosecuted if he returns to Benin. Some of the president's former advisors, however, are organizing for a presidential run by Talon.

Dig deeper and things get even more interesting. Talon used to be an ally of the president, and helped finance his election campaigns. Talon says he split with the president because Yayi wanted to run for a third term. Yayi says Talon wanted to use lucrative state contracts to grow his fortune, and became upset when those contracts were canceled. Yayi accuses Talon of organizing an assassination-by-poison in 2012 plot that included the president's niece and doctor and a second coup attempt in 2013. Supporters of Talon in the government were sacked in 2013.

UPDATE (August 28): Wednesday's post had a list of potential candidates from an article in March. Michael Kevane pointed out that I missed President Yayi's apparent choice as his successor, Lionel Zinsou, who was appointed prime minister (a position not required by the Constitution but used occasionally by Beninois governments) in June.

Here is an updated list of potential presidential candidates from last month (most, apart from Zinsou and Judge Houssou, were also included in March):
  • Lionel Zinsou, like President Yayi, has a background in economics and banking. He was a special advisor to Yayi from 2006-2011, and was appointed prime minister in June. He was born and spent most of his life in France (and has close ties with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius) and his uncle was briefly president of Benin (from 1968-1969) before falling to a coup. 
  • Patrice Talon, businessman and billionaire (see above). 
  • Judge Angelo Houssou, who has been in exile in the US since 2013. Houssou was presided over the poison case against Talon, and he fled Benin, citing threats to his life, after he dismissed the case against Talon and Yayi's doctor and niece.
  • Lehady Vinangnon Soglo, an unsuccessful candidate in the first round of the 2006 presidential election, with 8.54% of votes cast, the candidate of the Renaissance of Benin (RB, close to the government). Lehady is son of former president Nicephore Soglo. 
  • The former president of the West African Development Bank (BOAD), Abdoulaye Bio Tchane, after his unsuccessful experience, with 6.5% of votes cast in the first round of the 2011 presidential election
  • Pascal Iréné Koukpaki, former prime minister.
  • Emmanuel Golou, candidate of the Social Democratic Party (PSD)
  • General Fernand Marcel Amoussou, previously chief of staff of the Beninese army commander of UN forces in Cote d'Ivoire. 
  • General Robert Gbian, previously Quartermaster General in the Palace of the Republic
  • The current president of the National Assembly of Benin Koffi Mathurin Nago. 
  • Eric Houndété, Member of Parliament.
Mentioned in July but not March, three women:
Mentioned in March but not July:
  • Bio Sawe, Cabinet Director of the president of the West African Development Bank. 
  • Christian Adovelande, President of the West African Development Bank. 
Benin has a history of bankers without a history of running for office becoming president. Nicephore Soglo (1991-1996) worked for the IMF and World Bank before becoming president, and Yayi Boni was president of the West African Development Bank before becoming president.

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