Benin's time as an independent state was
greatly marked by Mathieu Kérékou, who with a brief
interruption ruled the country from 1972, when he took
power in a military coup, until 2006, when, according to
the constitution, he was not allowed to stand for
re-election as president. What is unique to Benin,
however, is that during the early 1990s, the country
under Kérékou peacefully went from a Marxist-Leninist,
long-standing military-controlled one-party state to a
democratic multi-party state.
Benin, or Dahomey as the country was still called,
became independent in 1960. The first decade as an
independent republic became stormy due to power
struggles. A series of largely military-supported
regimes succeeded until October 1972, when Major
(shortly thereafter General) Mathieu Kérékou seized
power at the head of a group of young officers. Thus, an
18-year dictatorship and even longer power holdings for
Kérékou were initiated personally.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Benin. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
Kérékou's regime quickly attracted leftist
intellectuals and became radicalized. In 1974,
Marxism-Leninism was adopted as the official state
ideology and nationalized companies, banks and insurance
companies. In 1976, the country was renamed Benin. The
following year, a constitution was adopted which made
the country a one-party state.
President Kérékou sat safely during the first half of
the 1980s. He turned down several coup attempts and got
himself re-elected a couple of times. But when Nigeria
closed its border in 1984 in an attempt to stop
smuggling between countries, Benin was plunged into an
economic crisis. The government then turned to the West
and sought support from the International Monetary Fund
(IMF). But when savings plans were enforced on the
advice of the IMF, popular dissatisfaction grew. In
January 1989, government officials who had not been paid
for several months strikes. The banks collapsed. In
August, however, Kérékou was re-elected as the only
candidate, but now as civilian president.
At the end of the year, Kérékou abandoned
Marxism-Leninism after pressure, among other things,
from the lenders in the West. At a national conference
in April 1990, where representatives of all the "active
forces" of the country were present, it was decided to
replace the old constitution. A senior official of the
World Bank, Nicéphore Soglo, was called home and made
prime minister in a transitional government. Political
parties were allowed. However, Kérékou remained as
In a referendum in December 1990, a new constitution
was adopted which introduced a democratic state of
governance. In February 1991 elections were held for a
legislative assembly. Thus, the country, whose name was
now the Republic of Benin, as the first African state to
have peacefully gone from a long-standing
military-controlled one-party state to multi-party
systems. In the parliamentary elections, most of the
mandate went to a party grouping that supported Soglo.
In the March 1991 presidential election, the first with
more than one candidate, Kérékou was defeated by Soglo.
In the 1995 parliamentary elections, Soglos Benin's
re-birth party (RB) became the largest party. But
together, the opposition parties got the majority of
seats in the National Assembly. The opposition's success
spurred Kérékou to re-enter politics. He defeated Soglo
in the 1996 presidential election and appointed Adrien
Houngbédji, leader of the Democratic Renewal Party (PRD),
as prime minister. After disagreements with the
president, Houngbédji resigned in 1998. No new prime
minister was appointed.
In the 1999 parliamentary elections, RB and the other
opposition gained barely a majority in parliament, which
made it difficult for Kérékou to form government. Only
after several months could a new government take office.
In the 2001 presidential election, Kérékou defeated
Bruno Amoussou, government member and leader of the
Social Democratic Party (PSD), with 84 percent of the
vote in the second round. Amoussou was given a
ministerial post in the new government. In 2002,
Amoussou became party leader for the newly formed Union
of Benin Future (UBF), which consisted of parties that
supported Kérékou. UBF had success in the 2003
parliamentary elections, while RB nearly halved. After
the election, the opposition party PRD went over to the
presidential side, which thereby gained a significant
majority in the National Assembly.
Boni Yayi becomes president
After two terms in office, Kérékou was not entitled
to stand in the presidential election in spring 2006.
Instead of voting for one of the other well-known
politicians, many voters opted for an unproven card, the
former head of West African Development Bank Boni Yayi,
who was running as an independent candidate. Yayi got
over 35 percent of the vote in the first round, while
Adrien Houngbédji came in second with 24 percent. In the
second round, Yayi won big. As president, he wanted to
fight corruption and poverty, revitalize the economy and
implement constitutional changes to streamline
governance in the country.
Ahead of the spring 2007 parliamentary elections,
about twenty parties formed to support the Yayi alliance
the Cauri forces for a prominent Benin (FCBE).
Traditional parties such as RB, PSD and Madep instead
collaborated within the Alliance for Democratic Dynamics
(ADD). The election was a success for Yayi's support
coalition FCBE. However, his unease at the political
game led to him gradually losing the support of the
small parties. His proposal was blocked and not much was
In 2010, Yayi dismissed his Interior Minister who was
accused of participating in a financial scandal in which
entrepreneurs, many of them women, lost money when
investing in a company that promised extremely high
interest rates. Eventually, Yayi himself was pulled into
the scandal. More than half of Parliament's members
signed a petition to put him before the national court.
However, the number of signatures was not enough to get
the process started.
In the fall of 2010, Benin was hit by the most severe
floods in over forty years. More than a quarter of the
country was submerged and 200,000 people were forced to
leave their homes.
In the 2011 presidential election, Boni Yayi won 53
percent of the vote. Even in the parliamentary
elections, Yayi and his support alliance went well, FCBE,
which could count on the support of 61 of the 83 MPs. In
May of that year, President Yayi reinstated a prime
ministerial post. The new head of government Pascal
Irénée Koupaki, one of the president's closest
confidants, would do the daily government work while the
president would still have the last say.