Why Benin’s Lawmakers Killed a Plan to Give Presidents Only One Term

Why Benin’s Lawmakers Killed a Plan to Give Presidents Only One Term
Benin President Patrice Talon addresses the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, Sept. 22, 2016 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

When he was sworn in as Benin’s president a year ago today, Patrice Talon, a business mogul known as the “king of cotton,” vowed to serve only one term and said he would try to enshrine that limit into law. On a continent where multiple presidents, from Burundi to Burkina Faso and beyond, have attempted with varying success to circumvent constitutionally imposed term limits in recent years, Talon’s promise—and his warnings about the complacency of long-serving leaders—set him apart as someone with potentially stronger democratic credentials.

This week, however, Talon’s ability to make good on that promise was dealt a severe, potentially fatal blow by Benin’s lawmakers. On Tuesday, they narrowly rejected a series of proposed constitutional revisions that included restricting a president’s time in power from two five-year terms to one six-year term. The revisions, which Talon submitted to the National Assembly on March 15, also addressed public financing for political parties and a restructuring of the Constitutional Court and High Court of Justice. In all, 60 lawmakers endorsed a proposal to examine the revisions on the merits, while 22 voted against and one abstained. Talon needed the support of three-quarters of the assembly—or 63 lawmakers—for the proposal to move forward and eventually be put to a referendum.

It is not clear what Talon’s next step will be. After the vote, his justice minister, Joseph Djogbenou, expressed confidence that the constitutional changes would eventually happen, albeit not according to the government’s desired timeline. At least in the short term, analysts suspect the government will turn its attention to other priorities.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.