Politics

08
Apr
10:21 UTC

Benin Tactical: Presidential elections slated to take place on April 11; maintain heightened vigilance, avoid vicinity of electoral facilities

Please be advised

  • Presidential elections are set to take place in Benin on April 11 with President Patrice Talon contesting for re-election against two opponents, Alassane Soumanou of the Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin (FCBE) and independent candidate Corentin Kohoue.
  • Reports from April 6 indicate that nationwide protests took place calling for Talon to step down following the expiry of his mandate on April 6. Further reports from April 7 indicate that the protests escalated into violence, with the premises of an allegedly pro-government radio station ransacked in Parakou, Borgou Department, and the home of a Republican Bloc (BR) deputy burnt down in Save, Collins Department.  
  • On February 22, the Constitutional Court (CC) approved only the aforementioned three presidential candidates out of 20 nominees, following changes to sponsorship requirements for presidential nominations introduced in November 2019. 
  • The opposition Democrats party nominee Reckya Madougou, who is widely considered to be Talon’s main opponent, was among those disqualified by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENA). Madougou was arrested on March 3 for her alleged involvement in a plot to kill two government officials in Parakou, Borgou Department and remains in detention. 
  • For a more detailed analysis of the Benin elections, please click here.

Assessments & Forecast

  1. The presidential elections are set to take place amid heightened tensions due to the opposition’s perception of Talon as a threat to Benin’s democracy following the introduction of electoral reforms that have effectively disqualified major opposition candidates and restricted press freedoms during the electoral period. These perceptions have been exacerbated by the arrest of the Democrats party leader Reckya Madougou, demonstrating the government’s repressive tendencies toward the opposition and leading to condemnation from civil society organizations. These tensions notably manifested in demonstrations against the President in major cities including Porto-Novo, Cotonou, and Parakou on April 6. 
  2. While the April 6 protests appeared to be limited in size, the eruption of demonstrations just days before the elections further illustrates growing frustrations over the opposition’s weakened electoral position and inability to reach supporters through mainstream media channels due to regulations by the High Authority of Audiovisual and Communication (HAAC). Furthermore, the reported ransacking of an allegedly pro-government radio station in Parakou and the destruction of the home of a Republican Bloc (BR) deputy in Save, Collines Department amid the protests highlight the potential for violence against organizations and individuals associated with the government ahead of the elections. 
  3. FORECAST: Within this context and given the potential for further anti-Talon demonstrations to erupt ahead of the elections, a heightened security presence can be expected in Cotonou and other major cities in the coming days and on April 11. Police are likely to be specifically deployed in the vicinity of polling stations and prominent government buildings to limit any opposition mobilization or unrest on election day. Additionally, as witnessed during the 2019 legislative elections, police are liable to use forcible measures including tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse further anti-government protests or unauthorized gatherings. With this, the government may seek to arrest additional opposition figures and those suspected of organizing the April 6 protests as a means of stifling further opposition activities and discouraging opposition supporters from participating. 
  4. FORECAST: Although the April 11 presidential elections are likely to witness a larger turnout than the 2019 legislative elections as two opposition candidates have been verified by the CC, voter participation is likely to remain subdued given the disqualification of major opposition candidates and limited support for those who are running. With the opposition divided between candidates and outraged over electoral grievances, many supporters may boycott the polls altogether. Voter turnout may also be limited due to concerns for political violence at polling stations or police crackdowns in response to possible demonstrations on election day.
  5. FORECAST: Despite the increase of anti-Talon sentiment in the run-up to the elections, given these circumstances and that President Talon has maintained relative support during his first term, he is expected to secure an electoral victory. Given this likely outcome, opposition parties may organize additional demonstrations in Cotonou and file appeals with the judiciary to challenge the election results in the days immediately following the polls. Therefore, Benin’s post-election political environment will likely remain tense. 

Recommendations

  1. Those operating or residing in Benin on April 11 are advised to avoid the vicinity of electoral facilities due to the election and the potential for unrest.
  2. Maintain heightened vigilance and avoid gatherings and political events over the coming week due to the heightened tensions and the risk of political violence and security crackdowns.
COUNTRY RISK LEVEL Medium
AFFECTED AREA Nationwide, Benin
INCIDENT RISK LEVEL Medium
STRENGTH OF SOURCE Confirmed

Please be advised

  • Presidential elections are set to take place in Benin on April 11 with President Patrice Talon contesting for re-election against two opponents, Alassane Soumanou of the Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin (FCBE) and independent candidate Corentin Kohoue.
  • Reports from April 6 indicate that nationwide protests took place calling for Talon to step down following the expiry of his mandate on April 6. Further reports from April 7 indicate that the protests escalated into violence, with the premises of an allegedly pro-government radio station ransacked in Parakou, Borgou Department, and the home of a Republican Bloc (BR) deputy burnt down in Save, Collins Department.  
  • On February 22, the Constitutional Court (CC) approved only the aforementioned three presidential candidates out of 20 nominees, following changes to sponsorship requirements for presidential nominations introduced in November 2019. 
  • The opposition Democrats party nominee Reckya Madougou, who is widely considered to be Talon’s main opponent, was among those disqualified by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENA). Madougou was arrested on March 3 for her alleged involvement in a plot to kill two government officials in Parakou, Borgou Department and remains in detention. 
  • For a more detailed analysis of the Benin elections, please click here.

Assessments & Forecast

  1. The presidential elections are set to take place amid heightened tensions due to the opposition’s perception of Talon as a threat to Benin’s democracy following the introduction of electoral reforms that have effectively disqualified major opposition candidates and restricted press freedoms during the electoral period. These perceptions have been exacerbated by the arrest of the Democrats party leader Reckya Madougou, demonstrating the government’s repressive tendencies toward the opposition and leading to condemnation from civil society organizations. These tensions notably manifested in demonstrations against the President in major cities including Porto-Novo, Cotonou, and Parakou on April 6. 
  2. While the April 6 protests appeared to be limited in size, the eruption of demonstrations just days before the elections further illustrates growing frustrations over the opposition’s weakened electoral position and inability to reach supporters through mainstream media channels due to regulations by the High Authority of Audiovisual and Communication (HAAC). Furthermore, the reported ransacking of an allegedly pro-government radio station in Parakou and the destruction of the home of a Republican Bloc (BR) deputy in Save, Collines Department amid the protests highlight the potential for violence against organizations and individuals associated with the government ahead of the elections. 
  3. FORECAST: Within this context and given the potential for further anti-Talon demonstrations to erupt ahead of the elections, a heightened security presence can be expected in Cotonou and other major cities in the coming days and on April 11. Police are likely to be specifically deployed in the vicinity of polling stations and prominent government buildings to limit any opposition mobilization or unrest on election day. Additionally, as witnessed during the 2019 legislative elections, police are liable to use forcible measures including tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse further anti-government protests or unauthorized gatherings. With this, the government may seek to arrest additional opposition figures and those suspected of organizing the April 6 protests as a means of stifling further opposition activities and discouraging opposition supporters from participating. 
  4. FORECAST: Although the April 11 presidential elections are likely to witness a larger turnout than the 2019 legislative elections as two opposition candidates have been verified by the CC, voter participation is likely to remain subdued given the disqualification of major opposition candidates and limited support for those who are running. With the opposition divided between candidates and outraged over electoral grievances, many supporters may boycott the polls altogether. Voter turnout may also be limited due to concerns for political violence at polling stations or police crackdowns in response to possible demonstrations on election day.
  5. FORECAST: Despite the increase of anti-Talon sentiment in the run-up to the elections, given these circumstances and that President Talon has maintained relative support during his first term, he is expected to secure an electoral victory. Given this likely outcome, opposition parties may organize additional demonstrations in Cotonou and file appeals with the judiciary to challenge the election results in the days immediately following the polls. Therefore, Benin’s post-election political environment will likely remain tense. 

Recommendations

  1. Those operating or residing in Benin on April 11 are advised to avoid the vicinity of electoral facilities due to the election and the potential for unrest.
  2. Maintain heightened vigilance and avoid gatherings and political events over the coming week due to the heightened tensions and the risk of political violence and security crackdowns.
COUNTRY RISK LEVEL Medium
AFFECTED AREA Nationwide, Benin
INCIDENT RISK LEVEL Medium
STRENGTH OF SOURCE Confirmed