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Benin presidential election brings main candidate into the race from France

February 28, 2016 - BENIN

Prime minister Lionel Zinsou, president Thomas Boni Yayi's nominated successor, is the likely victor among a record 48 candidates in presidential elections. Zinsou, who lived in France for many years, is regarded as an outsider by some.

Fears that Boni Yayi would defy the constitutional term limits of the cotton-producing West African country to seek a third term eased with the nomination of Zinsou as the candidate of the ruling Strengths Cowries for Emergent Benin (FCBE) party.

The 2016 presidential vote is the country's sixth. Elections since the former French colony introduced multiparty democracy in 1990 have been relatively peaceful, but opposition to Zinsou is expected to raise the political temperature ahead of the 2016 vote. The Reuters news agency reports that Zinsou's critics, which include dissidents from the ruling party, opposition politicians and trades union leaders, assert that he would make a disastrous leader of Benin.

An economist and former investment banker of French and Beninese origin, Zinsou returned to the country in June to become prime minister. He plans to tackle Benin's problems of underdevelopment and rapid population growth. He has said his presidency will focus on alleviating poverty and getting more workers into the formal sector, which includes all jobs recognized as sources of taxable income.
Benin has been affected by a slowdown in Nigeria, its much larger neighbour and major trading partner, but the International Monetary Fund predicts that Benin's national product will grow by 5.5 per cent this year.

Benin politicians attack president's favoured successor (Reuters 5 Jan 2016)

Benin timeline (BBC)

2.5 million overseas Beninese citizens to be registered for 2016 presidential election (Xinhuanet 13 Oct 2015)

Date written/update: 2016-01-26