Police officers walk out of the premises of the Autonomous National Electoral Commission as vote-counting begins in Cotonou, Benin, on April 12. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images)

Benin’s April 11 elections have many analysts increasingly concerned that the country is following a recent pattern of democratic decline in Africa. In 1991, Benin was the first former dictatorship to hold multiparty elections in Africa’s post-Cold War wave of democratization. According to one measure of democracy — the “two-turnover test” — Benin consolidated its democracy in 1996, when a second incumbent president lost reelection.

Political scientists define democracy as a system with contested elections — which means the opposition has some chance of winning. That wasn’t the case in Benin, where President Patrice Talon took steps to ensure his victory before a single vote was cast last month.…  Seguir leyendo »

A vendor displays her wares along a road in Cotonou on April 14, as business resumes after incumbent Patrice Talon was declared the winner of Benin’s presidential election. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images)

On April 11, cotton magnate and incumbent President Patrice Talon won reelection to a second term in Benin. With more than 86 percent of the vote, Talon easily defeated his two lesser-known opponents, Alassane Soumanou and Corentin Kohoue.

Benin’s scattered opposition parties criticized Talon for rewriting election regulations and co-opting the country’s courts to stack the odds in his favor. Talon’s actions are likely to further reduce trust between the public and government officials at a time when cooperation between them is essential for addressing security threats at Benin’s borders.

Talon eliminated the competition

To many, the most remarkable aspect of last month’s election was how much Benin’s politics changed during a single presidential term.…  Seguir leyendo »

A polling official cuts the seal of a ballot box during the elections for a new parliament in Cotonou, Benin, on April 28. (Yanick Folly/AFP/Getty Images)

In the weeks before Benin’s April 28 election, police used tear gas to disperse demonstrations led by former presidents Nicephore Soglo and Thomas Yayi Boni, who called for a boycott of the opposition-less election.

The government blocked social media and messaging apps on the Internet. International and domestic observers canceled poll monitoring plans in anticipation of violence — there were two reported deaths and 206 incidents during the election. Yayi Boni called for the election results to be annulled; soldiers in tanks circled his home and fired on hundreds of protesters.

Such events would be unsurprising in some African countries, including neighboring Togo.…  Seguir leyendo »