Strengthening the Local Electoral Process December 2002 Local Elections. IFES Final Report
On December 15, 2002, Benin conducted its first local elections since its return to multi-party rule. An important precursor to the 2003 legislative elections and the 2006 presidential elections, these elections mark the government of Benin's first legal step in implementing its decentralization program at the local level-the devolution of political, financial and administrative responsibility to local governments. According to the Autonomous National Election Commission (CENA), 5,709 candidates ran for local office in 77 communes with 482 women candidates. The CENA stated that 3,096,867 Beninese registered to vote, a slight decrease compared to the number of people who registered for the 2001 presidential election.
In order to promote a more transparent and democratic electoral process and to bolster citizen confidence and participation in this process, IFES, in coordination with six local NGOs, designed and implemented a 2-phase voter education campaign in six of Benin's 7i communes in the months leading up to the elections. The first phase involved the organization of a series of civic fora in six different communes-Cotonou, Porto Novo, Lokossa, Abomey, Natitingou, and Parakou-from November 6-19, 2002. At the fora, participants discussed the basic principles of decentralization and the role of local elected officials, identified the basic developmental needs of the communes, and received a citizen's guide. The second phase of IFES' program involved the organization of a series of citizen candidate exchanges from December 1-9, 2002. These exchanges-conducted in the same communes previously selected for the civic fora-allowed local candidates to share how they planned to address the needs of the commune.
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