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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07COTONOU217
2007-03-21 11:51:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Cotonou
Cable title:  

BENIN: LEGISLATIVE ELECTION PREPARATIONS CONTINUE AMID RISK

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  BN 
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VZCZCXRO1416
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHCO #0217/01 0801151
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 211151Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY COTONOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9364
INFO RUEHLMC/MILLENIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1079
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 0124
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0297
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COTONOU 000217 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W (DBANKS)
KAMPALA FOR FLINTROP, LONDON FOR HAHN, PARIS FOR D'ELIA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL BN
SUBJECT: BENIN: LEGISLATIVE ELECTION PREPARATIONS CONTINUE AMID RISK
OF POSTPONEMENT

REF: A) 06 COTONOU 1226; B) 06 COTONOU 1213

COTONOU 00000217 001.2 OF 002


UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COTONOU 000217

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W (DBANKS)
KAMPALA FOR FLINTROP, LONDON FOR HAHN, PARIS FOR D'ELIA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL BN
SUBJECT: BENIN: LEGISLATIVE ELECTION PREPARATIONS CONTINUE AMID RISK
OF POSTPONEMENT

REF: A) 06 COTONOU 1226; B) 06 COTONOU 1213

COTONOU 00000217 001.2 OF 002



1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Two coalitions and one party seem to be the major
contenders in Benin's March 25 legislative elections. Without
clearly developed policy stances to distinguish the candidates, the
elections have assumed the form of a referendum on the Yayi
government's performance during its first-year in office, with one
coalition slate clearly emerging as the Yayi-favored candidates.
However, arguments over how to transport electoral materials, budget
problems, and apparently dysfunctional leadership of the national
electoral commission have combined to feed rumors that the vote may
have to be postponed for a week or two. After a March 20 meeting
with election commission officials, at which Yayi promised to cover
per diem costs, the elections once again appear likely to take place
as scheduled. END SUMMARY.

TWENTY-SIX PARTIES AND COALITIONS ARE RUNNING
--------------


2. (SBU) Of the twenty-six parties and coalitions to submit
candidate lists, three appear to have reasonable hopes of winning a
significant number of the 83 seats in the National Assembly on March

25. President Yayi has given his informal endorsement to the Force
Cowrie for an Emergent Benin (FCBE), and was reportedly involved
personally in choosing the FCBE's slate. The FCBE manifesto is
little more than a call to support Yayi and give the President a
clear legislative majority to enact his program.


3. (SBU) Yayi's forces may well win big. However, a vocal
alternative has emerged in the Democratic Renewal Party (PRD),
supported by Adrien Houngbedji, whom Yayi defeated in the run-off of
the 2006 presidential elections. The PRD's election manifesto is
negative, criticizing the government's failure to improve the
economy or people's daily lives. How well the PRD does will serve as
a useful measure of whether Yayi still enjoys a political honeymoon,
or whether the public has grown fed-up with continued power cuts,
the disappointing cotton harvest and continued criminality across

the country. Another major coalition, the Dynamic Democratic
Alliance (ADD), brings together the parties of the third, fourth and
fifth-place candidates from the first round of the 2006 presidential
elections. All three endorsed Yayi in the second round, but their
subsequent relationship with Yayi has been far from smooth.
Therefore the ADD cannot be described as either pro- or anti-Yayi,
muddying its campaign strategy. The historical strength of the
three main coalition members in their regional strongholds means ADD
could well emerge with an important number of seats in the new
legislature.


4. (U) CAVEAT: While we think these three slates will win a large
majority of the seats in the next legislature, that is far from
certain. Benin has no pollsters and no professional media coverage
of the campaign (most newspaper reports on the election campaign are
paid for by the candidates themselves). So it is possible that,
among the other twenty-three slates, there may be one or two with
electoral appeal about which we are unaware. END CAVEAT.

MANAGEMENT AND BUDGETARY CONCERNS THREATEN TIMELY ELECTION
--------------


5. (SBU) In the meantime, the Independent National Election
Commission (CENA) has struggled from crisis to crisis. One key
Embassy civil society contact told the Ambassador on March 20 that
this year's CENA was "the worst we have ever had in Benin."
According to this contact, the troubles began when the CENA members
selected an ineffective party functionary allied with a second-tier
slate as CENA president. The CENA then got into a stare-down with
the government over whether to use military vehicles to transport
electoral materials as a cost-saving (and graft-avoiding) measure.
The CENA caved on the issue after two weeks of delay, but only after
publicly airing their internal disagreements in the media (local
media coverage of the workings of the CENA is much more informative
than that of the election itself). Currently, some local level
election officials have refused to deliver the voter registration
lists they compiled to the CENA, until they are paid a lump sum
beyond their allotted per diem. As of March 20, the CENA was still
awaiting voter lists from five departments out of twelve in the
country.


6. (SBU) This week as well, CENA's internal strains came to a head,
with a majority of CENA members objecting to the Commission
President's unilateral decision to award the ballot printing
contract to a printer who had not been recommended by the CENA's
procurement committee. On March 20, by a vote of 20 in favor with 3
abstentions, the CENA members replaced the President with another

COTONOU 00000217 002.2 OF 002


CENA member allied to a different second-tier slate. The CENA also
overturned the award of the ballot printing contract, and said it
would take measures to ensure that two versions of the ballot would
not circulate. A CENA member told the Embassy privately on March 19
that it was possible, due to these difficulties, that the CENA might
ask the government to postpone the elections, at least for a few
days.


7. (U) The government has grown so concerned by the confusion in the
election bodies, that it publicly convoked all of the country's
election officials to a meeting at the Presidential Palace on March

20. At that meeting, President Yayi assured the officials that the
government would compensate them, and urged them to fulfill their
duties. Media reports claimed this has calmed the election
officials. Outstanding voter lists are supposed to be handed over
to the CENA on March 21 at the latest.


8. (SBU) COMMENT: With the developments of March 20, it appears
Benin's legislative elections will be held on schedule on March 25.
Postponement of the elections would be a serious embarrassment for
Benin, tarnishing its reputation as a beacon of stability and
democracy in West Africa. It need not, however, provoke a
constitutional or political crisis -- as long as the postponement is
endorsed by both the government and the Constitutional Court, and
lasts no longer than a week or so to allow the CENA to pull itself
together and organize the elections. In any case, Post plans to
observe the election in major population centers. END COMMENT.

BROWN