In 1904 the, previously, Kingdom of Dahomey became a part of French West Africa. In 1958 it became the Republic of Dahomey and in 1975 was renamed Benin.
On 1st August 1960 the Republic of Dahomey gained independence from France and from then until 1972 there were a series of military coups and changes of government.
The last of these governments was run by Major Mathieu Kérékou who headed the Revolutionary Party of the People of Benin (PRPB), a Marxist-Leninist regime. They remained in power until 1991.
On 17th February 1991 the first multi-party elections took place since 1964. The largest party was the Union for Triumph of Democratic Renewal (UTDR) which took 12 of the 64 seats in the National Assembly.
The Presidential election of 24th March 1991 was won by Nicéphore Soglo of the UTDR who won against Mathieu Kérékou in the second round, taking 67.73% of the vote to Kérékou’s 32.27%. This election was especially noteworthy because it was the first time that an opposition candidate had won a free election in post-colonial Francophone Africa.
In the 1995 general election Soglo’s party The Renaissance Party of Benin took 21 of the 83 seats in the National Assembly and was the largest single party. But in the March 1996 presidential election Mathieu Kérékou won in the second round with 52.49% of the vote. Nicéphore Soglo received 47.51%.
Mathieu Kérékou won again in 2001 but this time under great controversy. Nicéphore Soglo, who had stood in the first round, boycotted the second round citing election fraud as the reason. The third placed candidate in the first round, Adrien Houngbédji, also boycotted the second round. However, Bruno Ange-Marie Amoussou of the Social Democratic Party stood in the second round, giving Kérékou the legitimacy he needed and he took 84.1% of the second round vote.
In the 2003 general election Kérékou’s Presidential Movement, an alliance of ten parties took 52 of the 83 National Assembly seats.
In the 2006 presidential election Kérékou was barred from running because he had completed two terms. Nicéphore Soglo was also barred from standing because of his age. The election went to two rounds and Yayi Boni of the Democratic Renewal Party (PRD) took 74.60% with Bruno Amoussou of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) coming second with 25.40% of the vote.
In the March 2007 general election a coalition supporting President Yayi Boni, the Cauri Forces for an Emerging Benin, took 35 of the 83 seats and was the largest party. The Alliance for Dynamism and Democracy of former President Soglo came second with 20 seats.
On 13th March 2011 Yayi Boni succeeded in winning a second term by taking 53.14% of the vote in the Presidential election. In April 2011 the President’s coalition also managed to secure a majority with 41 of the 83 seats and the help of smaller parties.
The President is only entitled to run for two terms according to the country’s constitution so it was no surprise that in late 2014 the President and his ruling party started making noises about amending the constitution to abolish presidential term limits.
It seems the people spoke when in the 2015 general election the Cauri Forces for an Emerging Benin (FCBE) lost 10 seats and were reduced to 33 seats in the 83 seat National Assembly. Opposition leader Adrien Houngbedji of the Democratic Renewal Party (PRD) was elected President (Speaker) of the parliament on 20th May 2015 by 42 votes, suggesting that the opposition were going to work together to stop the President’s plans.
The President is elected for a five year term with a second consecutive term possible.
There are 83 seats in the unicameral National Assembly with members being elected for four year terms by proportional representation.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Benin at joint 95th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 36 (where 100 is least corrupt).