Benin’s parliament narrowly rejected a draft bill by President Patrice Talon on Tuesday for a referendum to reform the constitution, including a provision to reduce presidential terms from the current two to one.
Talon came to power a year ago, promising to reduce the term limit because he said two terms were a cause of “complacency”.
Benin presidents can currently serve two five-year stints, and the bill wanted to shrink that to one six-year mandate.
Talon’s efforts to reduce term limits after a year in office contrasts with some other African leaders, including in Rwanda, Congo Republic and Burundi, who have scrapped them to stay in power.
His peaceful election last year was seen as reinforcing the democratic credentials of the tiny nation in a West African region where polls are often marred by violence, intimidation and rigging.
Lawmakers voted 60 to 22 in favour of the bill, with one abstention, but it needed 63 out of the total of 83 available votes to be passed and go to a referendum.
Those who voted against the changes said there should have been a public debate.
“The people don’t want this,” lawmaker Orou Kate told parliament. “The president needs to scrap this bill and go back to consult the population.”
(Writing by Tim Cocks; editing by John Stonestreet)