A former dictator tries an electoral comeback in a test of Benin's democratic stamina
Next month's presidential election is important not just for the Beninese, who will give their verdict on five years of economic reform, but more widely as a test for multi-party democracy in the region. In 1990, Benin led the field when dictator Mathieu Kérékou submitted to demands for a national conference, which ushered in an unexpectedly gentle transition to free elections. Several other Francophone countries - Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Niger and even Togo - followed suit. However, after last month's coup d’état in Niger and an attempted coup in Guinea on 3-4 February, there are fears that many of the region’s political reforms may be threatened. The problems are two- fold: firstly, several multi-party constitutions are proving incapable of brokering political competition; secondly, the stringencies of economic reform, combined with a sharp devaluation of the CFA franc, are putting intolerable pressure on living standards.
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