Africa Matters is a blog that follows the news and offers analysis of African affairs. Our aim is to delve deeper into the issues of African politics and development. We don’t presume to be experts, and we don’t presume to have all the answers—we are just trying to ask the right questions.

Thursday, March 22

Benin's elections

Though overshadowed by the vote in neighboring Nigeria next month, Benin's parliamentary elections are on Sunday. President Thomas Boni Yayi, a former head of the West African Development Bank, was elected last year on a pledge to fight corruption. His predecessor, Mathieu Kerekou was barred from running due to term and age limits. Kerekou took power in 1972, after 12 years of frequent coups following independence from France. He was ousted in 1991, after pressure from trade unions and civil society led to the country's first true multiparty elections. However, he won the next elections in 1996 and stayed in power until last year.

The coalition of parties that backed Kerikou still holds the majority in parliament, which has led to a confused and unproductive legislature, which Sunday's elections may improve. The date of the election was put in jeopardy over the past week, as the head of the Electoral Commission was removed over accusations that he did not follow proper procedure in choosing a printer for the ballots. Boni Yayi also survived an armed attack on his convoy last week, which he says was in retaliation for his fight against graft. But it looks like things are back on track now.

Benin is noted for its political stability in a turbulent West Africa and, recently, its good governance - it scores higher than any of its neighbors on Freedom House's rankings. Nevertheless it still ranks in the bottom 15 countries of the UN's Human Development Index, ahead of Niger and Burkina Faso, but behind those poster-boys of good governance Nigeria and Togo.