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Conference on the Role of Political Parties in Strengthening Democracy in Benin

21-23 October 2013

Parliament of Benin

Cotonou, Benin – Organised by the Parliament of Benin with the support of the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA) and the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD), a conference on the functioning of political parties in Benin and inter-party dialogue was held in Cotonou on 21, 22 and 23 October. This initiative is part of the capacity building programme of the National Assembly implemented in partnership with AWEPA and NIMD since 10 October 2012.

Among other topics, the conference addressed the role of political parties, relations between political parties and the Parliament, the status of parliamentary opposition and the inter-party dialogue. The Conference gathered representatives of the main political parties as well as representatives of civil society. Participants identified and discussed the obstacles that prevent political parties from efficiently playing a role in strengthening the democratic process and in the development of the country. In contrast, they also identified the various topics of dialogue that have yet to occur between parties, as well as the major barriers that exist.

According to Hon. Eric  Houndété, president of the Steering Committee of this joint programme, the conference will seek to consolidate healthy democratic practices in Benin while simultaneously ensuring  better organization and management of political factions with a consistent approach. Hon. Houndété considers that the proliferation of political parties in Benin is an indicator of democratic vitality in this country. Nevertheless, he considers that such proliferation can also create fragmentation within the political landscape, thus weakening stability.

From his perspective, the political scientist Mathias Hounkpè highlighted the legal and regulatory provisions by which political parties of Benin are bound. According to him, this young democracy’s political culture is in flux. The process (that began in the 1990s) should address certain problematic issues: the precarious access of political parties to public media; the lack of control over the funding that political parties receive; the absence of provisions to reduce political transhumance; the difficult access to public information obstructs the ability to comprehend  citizen’s concerns; and the challenge of proposing candidates for every single electoral district.

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