Monday, March 28, 2016

More on Benin's presidential election

I wrote a longer post on Benin's presidential election for the Washington Post's Monkey Cage - you can read it HERE

I was flattered that former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan liked the post enough that he tweeted it

One of the commenters was very kind in making a correction: Prime Minister Zinsou is the nephew, not the son, of former president Zinsou. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Talon wins Benin presidential run-off

I didn't see that coming!

Patrice Talon won the run-off election in Benin.

I was pretty sure Lionel Zinsou would win, even though he was born in France, spent most of his life in France, and had never been elected to office before. He was appointed Prime Minister just 9 months ago, as the outgoing president, Yayi Boni, was grooming him to succeed him to the presidency.

Although Zinsou, from that description, doesn't sound like he would be a strong presidential candidate, Patrice Talon doesn't either. He also had never run for office before. He had been a major supporter of Yayi Boni, helping finance his first two elections, before they had a falling out. Talon accused Yayi Boni of trying for a third term (Benin has a two-term limit) and Yayi Boni accused Talon of embezzling $20 million and of conspiring to assassinate the president with poison. Before entering the presidential race, Talon was in exile in France for three years.

So although Zinsou didn't seem like a natural political star, neither did Talon. Furthermore, Zinsou was endorsed by the main ruling party and the main opposition party. So I was pretty confident he would win.

I'll write more later ...

Senegal referendum election today!

Wow, there really are a lot of big elections in ECOWAS countries today.

Senegal is holding a referendum on constitutional reform today. The referendum would reduce the presidential term from seven to five years, would put an age limit (75) on presidential candidates, and would allow independents to run.

This all sounds like it is reducing the power of the president, but President Macky Sall had promised when elected to reduce the length of his own term, but instead the reform on today's ballot would begin with the next elected president, starting in 2019. So supporters of the president are pushing for a "yes" vote, and opponents are pushing for a "no."

UPDATE: The referendum passed.

Cape Verde parliamentary election today!

Wow, there are a lot of elections in the ECOWAS countries today!

Cape Verde is having a parliamentary election today.

Cape Verde has a semi-presidential system, with a president and a prime minister. Today's election will determine who controls the parliament and therefore the prime minister.

The African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV) party has controlled the parliament since 2001, but the main opposition party, Movement for Democracy (MpD), reportedly has a chance of retaking control. Current President Jorge Carlos Fonseca, who won the presidency in 2011, is a MpD member, meaning the government has been "cohabitating" since 2001.

Cape Verde is one of the most democratic countries in Africa, and also a developmental success, having achieved a 100 percent basic education rate.

UPDATE: Big results! From Reuters: "Cape Verde' main opposition Movement for Democracy (MpD) party won parliamentary elections, results showed overnight, taking back power after 15 years. With almost all votes counted from Sunday's poll, MpD had 53.7 percent, versus 37 percent for the former ruling African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV)."

Niger runoff election today!

Voters in Niger choose their president today in a run-off election!

Unlike in Benin, this one has an incumbent running, and there have been some troubling events, including the jailing of a major opposition candidate.

See my previous posts and some great posts by Lisa Mueller at the Monkey Cage for details!

UPDATE: The incumbent wins in a landslide, with 92 percent. 

Benin run-off election today

Voters make the final decision today for Benin's fourth president since multiparty elections were re-introduced in 1991.

My guess is Zinsou will win, given his endorsement by the ruling party and the main opposition party, but you never know.

See my previous posts for details!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Benin headed for runoff

As expected, none of the 33 candidates competing in Benin's presidential election last Sunday were able to achieve a majority on the first ballot.

Also as expected, Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou received a plurality, with 28.4% of the vote. Zinsou is outgoing president Yayi Boni's chosen successor, but he has been Prime Minister for less than a year and before that he was a banker in France, where he was born and raised (although he was also a Special Advisor to President Yayi Boni from 2006-2011; he is also the son of a former president of Benin).

Placing second, with 24.8% of the vote, was businessman Patrice Talon. Talon was once a major supporter of President Yayi Boni, until they had a falling out in 2012, due to allegations of a poisoning plot and Yayi Boni's hopes for a third term.

So Zinsou and Talon, each with more success in business than politics and a history with the outgoing president (himself a former banker), will face off in the coming weeks.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Benin begins voting for president among a wide selection of candidates

After a week delay for distribution of voting cards, Benin voters began voting today for president. The voting has been calm - Benin has peacefully elected three new presidents (and two incumbents) since it democratized twenty-five years ago.

Benin's electoral system is modeled on the French system - if no candidate wins a majority in the first round, there will be a run-off between the top two candidates. Since the country re-introduced multiparty presidential elections in 1991, four of five presidential elections have resulted in a run-off. The exception was 2011, when Yayi Boni won re-election in the first round with 53% of the vote.

With no incumbent running and some 33 candidates competing, it seems like the first round will be followed by a runoff.

The frontrunner is Lionel Zinsou, who is Yayi Boni's successor, current prime minister, and endorsed by Adrien Houngbedji, who has placed second or third in the past four presidential elections.

Other prominent candidates include:
  • Patrice Talon, a businessman who 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. 
  • Abdoulaye Bio Tchane, former president of the West African Development Bank (BOAD), who placed third with 6.5% of votes cast in the first round of the 2011 presidential election
  • Pascal Iréné Koukpaki, former prime minister (2011-2013).
An interesting aspect of Beninois presidential politics - although there are many parties in the country, and although presidential elections are for the most part free and fair, presidential candidates are often nonpartisan. When Nicephore Soglo won in 1991, he was not affiliated with a party (he was endorsed by an alliance of parties and joined Benin Rebirth (RB) after he was elected). Mathieu Kerekou and Yayi Boni were also not affiliated with a party (although they were endorsed by parties) when they were first elected in 1996 and 2006. Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin (Forces Cauris pour un Bénin Emergent - FCBE), which first contested legislative elections in 2007, was formed by supporters of the president. Among the candidates listed above, Zinsou is endorsed by FCBE (as well as Houngbedji's party), Koukpaki was a member of FCBE when he was prime minister under Yayi Boni; Tchane seems to be running as an independent (as he did in 2011), and Talon, who supported Yayi Boni in 2006 and 2011, seems to be running as an independent. has some coverage. Here's a quote from an enthusiastic supporter of the frontrunner:
    ‘‘You saw the fever. Did you see wherever we go, people welcomed us, people are happy to have someone like Lionel Zinsou as president of the Republic of Benin. Lionel Zinsou for us is a man of development, Lionel Zinsou for us means development of the country, employment for the youth. That is why we support Lionel Zinsou. And we believe that in the first round, we will win,’‘ said Celine Houessinon, a campaigner for Lionel Zinsou.

    Boko Haram Roving Bandits

    In a famous paper, Mancur Olson notes that governments in successful democracies and dictatorships behave more like stationary bandits than roving bandits. "In a world of roving banditry there is little or no incentive for anyone to produce or accumulate anything that may be stolen and, thus, little for bandits to steal. Bandit rationality, accordingly, induces the bandit leader to seize a given domain, to make himself the ruler of that domain, and to provide a peaceful order and other public goods for its inhabitants, thereby obtaining more in tax theft than he could have obtained from migratory plunder."

    Boko Haram has been behaving like roving bandits, and they are paying the price. The NY Times reports:
    After rampaging across the region for years, forcing more than two million people to flee their homes and farms, Boko Haram appears to be falling victim to a major food crisis of its own creation. Farmers have fled, leaving behind fallow fields. Herdsmen have rerouted cattle drives to avoid the violence. Throughout the region, entire villages have emptied, leaving a string of ghost towns with few people for Boko Haram to dominate — and little for the group to plunder.
    It seems clear that Boko Haram won't be able to establish the caliphate they were hoping for. Dozens of Boko Haram emaciated fighters have surrendered. But most of the group can continue to do a lot of damage while using raids to feed themselves.  The multinational military force (including Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon, with help from the US) will need to do a better job of protecting the area around the Sambisa Forest, where Boko Haram is based.