A so-called cotton king once accused of trying to poison his president could be about to take power in the tiny West African country of Benin. Cotton magnate Patrice Talon is the main challenger to Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou in the current presidential elections. The pair are due to face each other in the second round of voting on March 20 after the first round last week failed to produce a clear winner. Preliminary results showed that neither Talon nor French-born Zinsou had the majority of votes for an outright win with the former taking 24 per cent of the vote against the Prime Minister’s 28 per cent. Another businessman Sebastien Ajavon was a close third but if the preliminary results are confirmed Talon and Zinsou will vie against each other in a run-off on Sunday.
… Benin from dictatorship in 1991 when former president Mathieu Kerekou accepted his election defeat. It meant Benin was the first to introduce multi-party democracy in sub-Saharan Africa and it has remained one of the continent’s most stable democracies.
That’s not to say it has all been plain sailing. Kerekou, a former army major, was re-elected in 1996 and reigned supreme until a US telecommunications company was fined for bribery within Benin. California-based Titan admitted channelling funds into Kerekou’s election campaign in 2001 in an attempt to get a higher price for a project in the country. There was no indication that Kerekou knew about the bribe but he was banned from running in the 2006 presidential elections in any case as he was over the age limit set down in the constitution. It paved the way for Yayi, a political newcomer, to take control. A former boss of the Togo-based West African Development Bank and an evangelical Christian convert from Islam, Yayi was implicated in a pyramid investment scheme scandal in 2010 when more than 200,000 people are believed to have lost their money. The total money lost was £84m in a country where most people live on just over a pound a day.