Category Archives: Benin

Benin – PM post created (again)

A long time ago, in a previous post (far, far away), I discussed the case of Benin from 9 April 1996 to 14 May 1998. Benin is presidential. However, during this period there was a prime minister. The constitution was not changed to allow for the creation of the post. There was simply a presidential decree. As far as I know, though I have not seen the decree, the PM was responsible to the legislature during this time. Benin was not semi-presidential, according to the definition used in this blog, but there was some sort of dual authority structure.

There is now a PM again. In March President Yayi Boni was re-elected. Jeune Afrique is reporting that the appointment of a prime minister was one of President Boni’s election promises. On 28 May he made good on his promise and appointed Pascal Irénée Koupaki as PM. The report makes it clear that the constitution has not been changed and I get the impression that the PM is not responsible to the legislature.

So, why report the appointment here? Well, I think it relates to the definition of semi-presidentialism. For me, Benin is not semi-presidential. However, others define semi-presidentialism differently. They understand it to be the situation where there is a dual authority structure in which the two most senior actors in the system share political power. Yet, I have never seen Benin from 1996-98 classed as semi-presidential by those who understand the term in this way. Surely, though, they should. By the same token, shouldn’t they start to class Benin as semi-presidential again now? My guess is that no-one will do so. Quite rightly. I think the unreliability of a behavioural definition of the term and the inconsistency of the classifications of countries on the basis of it are the main reasons why the definition used in this blog is to be preferred.

Was Benin semi-presidential from 1996-98?

Benin is governed by the constitution of 2 December 1990. This constitution is resolutely presidential. However, from 9 April 1996 to 14 May 1998 there was a prime minister, Adrien Houngbédji. The constitution was not changed to make provision for a prime minister. It was simply the result of a presidential decree. As far as I can tell, Prime Minister Houngbédji was responsible to the legislature during this time.

The story, I think, was that Mathieu Kérékou was elected as president at the March 1996 election. He defeated the incumbent, President Nicéphore Soglo. Kérékou was slightly behind Soglo at the first ballot, but at the second, where only two candidates can stand, he won a plurality. Moreover, he did so with the help of Adrien Houngbédji, from the PRD party, who came third at the first round of the election. In return, President Kérékou was obliged to reward Houngbédji and the post of prime minister was created. In 1998 Prime Minister Houngbédji stepped down and the post of prime minister was not renewed.

Was Benin semi-presidential from 1996-98 (and, again, I am assuming that the PM was responsible to the legislature during this time)? The answer is ‘no’, because the constitution was still clearly presidential and, in any case, there was no collective responsibility. However, it is interesting that Benin had what might be called a dual-authority system for a period. For some people, a behavioural definition of this sort is still what is understood as semi-presidentialism. All the same, I am willing to bet that those same people do not include Benin in their studies of dual-authority systems.

So, I do not include Benin in my list of historic semi-presidential countries, but the 1996-1998 period is an interesting case nonetheless.

(This is an updated version of a previous post).