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Benin to hold labour elections amid democratic weakening


Benin to hold labour elections amid democratic weakening

Government of Benin
Photo: Government of Benin

Workers across Benin will today cast votes deciding who will represent them in the National Union of Workers’ Unions of Benin (UNSTB), a powerful local labour group.

Local elections in small West African countries rarely draw international attention. However, antidemocratic manoeuvring from incumbent President Patrice Talon gives these elections a unique significance. One of Africa’s richest people, Talon has targeted Benin’s democratic institutions through legislative changes to cement his grip on power. For example, a recent amendment to Beninois electoral law will require all future candidates for president to acquire endorsements from 10% of all 83 members of parliament and 77 mayors in Benin, which poses a challenge to future runs by opposition parties as most have been excluded from participating in elections.

Beninois labour groups have previously opposed Talon’s power grabs and see this election as their last chance before resorting to nationwide strikes. If Talon-friendly labour leaders are elected today, expect Talon to easily win the April 11 presidential elections and rewrite Benin’s constitution to allow him to remain in power. Without pushback and reprimand from the regionally powerful Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), it is likely that one of Africa’s stronger democracies will slide closer towards authoritarianism.

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