Benin profile - Leaders

  • 25 March 2016
  • From the section Africa
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Boni Yayi has served two terms as president

Outgoing President: Thomas Boni Yayi

Thomas Boni Yayi won presidential elections in March 2006, and again in 2011. He won 75% of the votes in the 2006 polls, but managed only 53% in the 2011 elections. These later polls were postponed twice and their results were disputed by the main challenger, Adrien Houngbedji. He is barred by the country's constitution from serving a third term.

Mr Yayi, a former head of the Togo-based West African Development Bank, lost considerable support during an economic downturn and a pyramid investment scheme scandal in 2010. This scandal involved several senior officials, and more than 100,000 people are reported to have lost their money.

His second term of office saw two unverified allegations of plots against the president. In 2012 Mr Yayi said he had survived an attempted poisoning, and police claimed they had foiled a coup attempt against him in March 2013.

Born in 1952 into a Muslim family in the north, Mr Yayi later became an evangelical Christian.

His predecessor, former army major Mathieu Kerekou, had led Benin for all but five years after seizing power in 1972. He earned the country the label of "Africa's Cuba" before dropping Marxism in 1990. He was barred by a constitutional age limit from running in 2006.

President-elect: Patrice Talon

Businessman Patrice Talon, known as the "king of cotton", won the 2016 presidential election in a run-off vote in March.

In the first round of the election earlier in the month, Mr Talon came second to Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou, the candidate of the ruling party, who also had the backing of President Boni Yayi. In the run-off, Mr Talon got 65% of the votes while Mr Zinsou secured 35%.

Mr Talon was formerly a close associate of the outgoing president, and financed his campaigns for the 2006 and 2011 elections.

He fled to France after being accused of involvement in the alleged 2012 plot to poison Mr Boni Yayi - an accusation he strongly rejects.

Mr Talon received a presidential pardon in May 2014 and returned from exile in October 2015.

Benin's president heads the government, the state and the military, and appoints the cabinet.