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Political Newcomer Wins Benin Election


Political newcomer Yayi Boni has won a second round run-off election to become Benin's next president.

With three-quarters of the vote in his favor, Yayi Boni looks set to be sworn in as Benin's next president on April 6.

Just over two-thirds of the electorate turned out for the second round, which was a run-off between independent candidate Boni and former speaker of parliament Adrien Houngbedji. He had run for president three times previously.

A former head of the West African Development Bank, Boni was a clear favorite after the first round. Houngbedji conceded defeat as soon as the provisional results were released late on Wednesday.

He said he was happy with the way the election was conducted, and congratulated his opponent.

"I am very happy for Yayi Boni," Houngbedji said. "These results are sensational. I have just spoken with him to congratulate him and to wish him success with his mandate to lead Benin. I would also like to thank my entire team. I am very pleased with the way this campaign has gone."

Benin has been suffering economically. The election campaign centered around job creation and economic revival.

Cotonou-based political analyst Gerard Guedegbe says people in Benin are expecting a lot from the new president.

"People here think that the arrival of Yayi Boni could stabilize the economy," he said. "We hope that we will have some sort of economic revival, that there will be more jobs for people, and that some of the social problems that we are going through now will be solved."

All the main candidates, who were excluded in the first round of voting supported Boni in the second round.

Political analyst Guedegbe says that many Beninois are worried he will surround himself with the wrong people.

"There is a fear by the population, because we saw that, for the run-off election, many politicians here supported him," he noted. "They think that, if those people are around him, it could turn into some sort of comeback for the former political class that the people have rejected."

Boni will succeed outgoing President Mathieu Kerekou, who led Benin for most of the past three decades, opening it to multi-party democracy in 1990. A constitutional two-term limit and an age limit barred Kerekou, 72, from seeking re-election.