1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Governance (2000 - 2009)

Le contrôle parlementaire de l'action gouvernementale en République du Bénin: Une lecture sociologique



Though one may not agree with Francis Fukuyama that the triumph of liberal democracy is “the end of history”, one can hardly fail to recognize the global spread of democracy as a defining political event of the end of the twentieth century. However, the increasing number of countries, on all continents, that have subscribed to democratic ideas poses a range of problems. Older democracies are faced with reshaping their institutions in a geopolitical environment that is undergoing major transformations. At the same time, the new democracies must deal with the challenge of consolidating their achievements as they become part of a global economy, one in which the rapid pace of change brings with it numerous and complex uncertainties. Given the requirements of managing these uncertainties, it remains unclear whether the new democracies have the regulatory capacity to deal with the new challenges—challenges also confronting the older democracies—locally, regionally and internationally.

On the national level, it is increasingly clear that constant pressure for economic liberalization jeopardizes the democratic commitments—still in the early stages of development—of new democracies. The increased burden of responsibility that policy makers face in setting economic policy hinders attempts to achieve a balance between the need for equity and the forces of financial conservatism, for example, thus making it more difficult for the political system to provide an adequate response to the social demands of parliamentarians and of civil society.

In order to assess the tension between the requirements of a liberal economic policy and the need for social responsibility so vital to the democratic ideal, UNRISD carried out research on technocratic policy making and democratization in eight countries: Argentina, Benin, Chile, the Czech Republic, Hungary, India, Malawi and the Republic of Korea. These countries share a commitment to democratization, which makes them particularly appropriate places in which to observe the various forms of tension that arise between the executive and legislative branches of government.

The present paper examines the Republic of Benin as an example of “re-established democracy” in Francophone Africa. Benin still bears the political marks of its colonial history, and is still in the process of defining its own criteria for democratization.

In Benin, the principle of parliamentary oversight as an institutionalized “counterbalance” to the power of the executive branch has been adopted as an instrument of social and political regulation. Thus, as with numerous other principles, it is one of the parameters of the democratic dynamic provided for in the Constitution.

From a sociological perspective, oversight of governmental action is an arena for confrontation occupied by power relationships co-managed by a plurality of actors with differing approaches. The field has its codes and internal rules, all playing a role in the social construction of a democratic environment. And the process of governmental oversight, which is still in its infancy in Benin, may be seen as a series of interactions between representatives of the government and members of Parliament, expressed in the yearly ritual of creating the annual budget legislation. The objective in this paper is to analyse these interactions and to assess the degree and manner in which parliamentarians in Benin’s young democracy assume this responsibility.
  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 9 Oct 2005
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISSN: 1020-8186
    From: UNRISD