The former head of state of Benin, Thomas Boni Yayi, has taken over the leadership of his party, The Democrats after a regular congress held over the weekend in Parakou, which is located 450 km north of Cotonou. Despite the party’s hopes for the upcoming 2026 general elections, his selection resulted from lengthy and challenging deliberations.
They were designating Thomas Boni Yayi as the party’s leader was far from a mere formality. Two factions emerged, one supporting the outgoing president, Eric Houndété, and the other backing Boni Yayi. Discussions were tense.
Eric Houndété’s supporters aimed to continue his leadership, but in the end, the former president, Thomas Boni Yayi, prevailed. One of Yayi’s close associates defended his selection by citing examples of leaders like Henri Kona Bédié and Laurent Gbagbo, who also assumed leadership roles in their parties after their presidencies.
The party opted not to resort to a vote. Thomas Boni Yayi was appointed president, and Eric Houndété was named vice president, making him the second-in-command of a bureau comprising nearly 90 members. This bureau is not considered a “crisis committee,” as one congress member emphasized.
The new bureau welcomes fresh faces, including Chabi Yayi, the son of the former president, former deputy Guy Mitokpè, and one of Reckiat Madougou’s lawyers, Me Renaud Agbodjo.
However, The Democrats are united in their commitment to the 2026 general elections, aiming for victory. The president of the organizing committee, Habibou Woroucoubou, exudes optimism, asserting that “The Democrats will take power in 2026.”
The congress proclaimed the party’s mobilization for a change of leadership in 2026, the year of the general elections and the end of President Patrice Talon’s second and final term. Boni Yayi is ineligible to run, as he is over 70 years old and has already served two presidential terms.
Throughout the congress, speeches were marked by strong criticism of the current government. A special resolution called for the immediate release and amnesty for Reckya Madougou, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in December 2021 for complicity in acts of terrorism by the Court for the Repression of Economic Offenses and Terrorism.