Benin’s ex-president urges public to demand ‘inclusive parliament’

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BY AFP

Benin’s former president, Thomas Boni Yayi, has called for a halt to the ongoing parliamentary election process, citing the inability by opposition parties to participate.

Benin votes for a new parliament on April 28 but changes to the electoral code, setting down tougher criteria for fielding candidates, have proven to be a de-facto bar for opposition parties.

Yayi’s argument

Yayi, who led the country for a decade between 2006 and 2016, held a rare press conference on Thursday demanding his successor, Patrice Talon, halt the polls.

There can be no legislative elections… without the opposition.

“I invite him to take the full measure of the seriousness of the present situation… and stop the electoral process under way,” Yayi told reporters.

The new electoral laws mean that only two parties, both allied to Talon, have been able to meet tougher administrative requirements for candidates.

Five other parties have been unable to follow suit, meaning that for the first time in nearly three decades, in a country once held up as a model for democracy in Africa, the opposition will not take part in a legislative poll.

In the last elections five years ago, voters could chose candidates from 20 parties to fill the posts of 83 members of parliament.

“There can be no legislative elections… without the opposition,” Yayi said, urging the public to come together for the sake of the nation and demand “an inclusive parliament to guarantee stability and peace.”

Critics say they fear the polls will bolster the president’s ability to change the country’s constitution. Public protests have been broken up by security forces.

Talon’s defence

Talon, elected in 2016, portrays himself as reformer and modernist.

He says the changed electoral code will bring together the scores of political parties, enabling them to form simpler and more effective blocs.

“There are more than 250 political parties… each of these new parties includes dozens of political movements,” Talon said this month.

He said he wanted to see parties coalesce into a third and fourth coalition to counterbalance the two main parties in parliament that both back him.