Democracy and rights
Benin has been emphasized since the 1990s as
a democratic example for other countries in Africa. But
the events surrounding the parliamentary elections in
April 2019 got judges to warn of the authoritarian
tendencies of President Patrice Talon.
The election was conducted despite all opposition
parties being rejected by the electoral authority. It
was the first time since democracy was restored in 1991
that Benin held a parliamentary election without
opposition. After the election, violent protests erupted
in Cotonou, which police met with violence. At least
four people were killed. Amnesty International warned
that the wave of arbitrary arrests of opposition
supporters and journalists, as well as the crackdown on
peaceful demonstrations, had reached an alarmingly high
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Otherwise, democracy is considered to have gained a
stronger hold in Benin since the military dictatorship
ceased. Multiparty systems prevail, as does free party
formation. There are a large number of parties in the
country. It was new stricter administrative demands on
political parties that allowed only two Talon-friendly
parties to stand for election in the 2019 elections.
Freedom of assembly and association applies and is
generally respected. However, both President Boni Yayi
and current President Talon have used the security
forces to stave off peaceful government-critical
demonstrations and social unrest on numerous occasions.
Civil society organizations are allowed to work freely
in the country.
Corruption is a major problem in the judiciary and
police, but also in society as a whole. A series of
corruption scandals helped Yayi lose the 2016 election
against businessman Talon. In 2019, Transparency
International ranked Benin as 80 of 180 countries in its
index of corruption in the world (see the full list
here). It was five investments better than the year
Freedom of expression and media
Since the transition to democracy, the media in Benin
can operate relatively freely. Freedom of the press and
opinion are included in the constitution and are
respected for the most part. Criticism against holders
of power is common in newspapers and in private ethereal
media. Benin has one of the region's more vibrant media
The task of a special media authority (HAAC) is to
monitor the media and ensure that they comply with
prevailing press laws, but also that freedom of the
press is not compromised.
However, there are shortcomings and the trend for
media freedom is declining. Journalists can be
prosecuted for slander, for example, for insulting the
president, which causes many to practice
self-censorship. Contempt by the head of state can no
longer provide imprisonment since 2015, but the
authorities have continued to withdraw or otherwise
punish newspapers that have published "offensive"
Reporters Without Borders placed Benin in number 113
in 180 countries in its press freedom index in 2020. It
was 17 investments worse than the year before and 38
investments worse than 2014 (the whole list is here).
State-owned media has given less and less room to the
opposition's activities since Talon came to power in
2016. The government exerts more control over the media,
in particular the state television which is the only
nationwide TV channel.
Benin was one of the first West African countries to
have access to the Internet and the authorities
generally do not try to limit it. However, the Internet
and social media were blocked during parts of the
election day in April 2019.
Judicial system and legal security
The judiciary's independent position is protected in
the Constitution, but in practice political influence
will appear. The president appoints the country's
In rural areas, traditional African law enforcement
dominates. There is also so-called mob justice, where
groups take the law into their own hands against a
suspected criminal, often without any legal sanction.
This means that legal certainty is low for many Beninis.
The inefficiency in the justice system is great and
many prisoners have to wait a long time for trial.
Arbitrary arrests occur as well as mistreatment of
suspected criminals. The situation in the prisons is
very flawed with overload and poor sanitation. The death
penalty was abolished in 2012, but no execution had been
carried out for nearly 25 years.
March against the corruption
President Yayi leads thousands of supporters in a
march against corruption. The fight against widespread
corruption in the country was one of Yayi's main
election promises for the 2006 presidential election.
Yayi's party wins the parliamentary elections
In the parliamentary elections, President Yayi's
support party becomes the Cauri forces for a prominent
Benin (FCBE) largest with 35 of the 83 seats. The
Alliance for Democratic Dynamics (ADD), which includes
President Nicéphore Soglo's party Benin's rebirth party
(RB), wins 20 seats. Adrien Houngbédji's party PRD gets
10 seats. Another nine parties / electoral unions are
represented in Parliament, where FCBE, with the support
of a few small parties, can secure a majority.