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The three-party system in Dahomey: II, 1956–1957

Abstract

By the end of 1955, territorial politics in Dahomey were dominated by three parties, the P.R.D. of S. M. Apithy, the M.D.D. of Hubert Maga, and the U.D.D. of Justin Ahomadegbe and others. Each party relied upon electoral support in clearly defined regions: the P.R.D. depended on the south-east, the M.D.D. on the north, and the U.D.D. on the residual areas of central and south-western Dahomey. The U.D.D. claimed, however, to be a new kind of party, transcending the narrow regionalism of its rivals and commanding ‘mass’ support rather than the uncertain and conditional support provided by ‘vote contractors’.

The loi-cadre reforms of 1956—7 led to an intensification of party activity, since they provided for the creation of territorial executives founded on electoral majorities and at the same time introduced universal suffrage. The 1957 Territorial Assembly elections were therefore a testing-ground for the tactics and strength of the three parties. Under pressure from the P.R.D., the U.D.D. adopted selection procedures like those of its rival. Outside the main towns, its campaigning was similar, concentrating on local issues to the exclusion of the wider questions on which the U.D.D. had hoped to take its stand.

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1 The final figures were: Apithy-Aplogan, 64,344 votes; Maga-Gbaguidi, 60,600; Adandé-Ahomadegbe, 40,637; Toko-Maurat, 10,592; Darboux-Soumanou Mama, 2,963. The total turnout was 46.6 per cent (179,734 out of a registered electorate of 384,868) (France-Dahomey, 3 Jan. 1956, 13 Jan. 1956).

2 Zinsou was from Ouidah: in 1951 he and Kpakpo had topped the poil in the subdivision centrale and in the Parahoué subdivision of Athiémé, and came second in Grand Popo. The U.D.D. drew a number of its leaders from the Mina population of the western coast.

3 See Morgenthau, Politcal Parties, 66–73;Thompson and Adloff, French West Africa, 78–82.

4 France-Dahomey, 9 Mar. 1956, 13 July 1956, 24 July 1956, 24 Nov. 1956, 12 Dec. 1956, 2 Feb. 1957, 6 Feb. 1957.

5 Robinson Kenneth, ‘Senegal: The elections to the Territorial Assembly, March 1957’, in Mackenzie W. J. M. and Robinson Kenneth (eds.): Five Elections in Africa (Oxford, 1960), 295.

6 Coleman James S., ‘The emergence of African political parties’, in Haines C. Grove (ed.), Africa Today (Baltimore, 1955), 234.Cf. Schattschneider E. E., Party Government (New York, 1942), 35: ‘A political party is first of all an organized attempt to get power. Power is here defined as control of the government. That is the objective of party organization.’

7 Report, Commissariat de Police, Abomey, 6 Mar. 1957, APA/483 (Direction des Affaires Intérieures, Cotonou).

8 The electoral system was based on Law 52–130 of 6 Feb. 1952 (see Robinson, in Mackenzie and Robinson, Five Elections in Africa, 297–8). The electoral arrangements for Dahomey in 1957 were set Out in France-Dahomey, 2 Mar. 1957.

9 Cf. Robinson, in Mackenzie and Robinson, Five Elections in Africa, 298; and Lewis W. Arthur, Politics in West Africa (London, 1965), 6474.

10 France-Dahomey, 3 Oct. 1956, 13 Oct. 1956.

11 Le Périscope (Porto-Novo), Dec. 1956/Jan 1957; Governor of Dahomey to High Commissioner, French West Africa, 9 Apr. 1957, 155/APA (Direction des Affaires Intérieures, Cotonou—hereafter cited as ‘Governor-High Commissioner, 9 Apr. 1957’).

12 Cf. Glélé, Naissance d'un Etat Noir, 139.

13 Pamphlets, L'U.D.D. s'interroge sur la Loi-Cadre (Cotonou, 1956), and Conclusions de la session d'étude de l'U.D.D. sur la Loi-Cadre (Cotonou, 1956) (privately communicated).

14 France-Dahomey, 31 July 1956. Cf. the report on the Territorial Assembly's debate on the loi cadre, France-Dahomey, 29 Aug. 1956, 1 Sept. 1956.

15 Glélé, Naissance d'un Etat Noir, 139–40;France-Dahomey, 5 June 1956 (statement by Ahomadegbe);Le Pér, scope, May/July 1956; Governor-High Commissioner, 9 Apr. 1957. See Morgenthau, Political Parties, III.

16 Glélé, Naissance d'un Etat Noir, 139–40; Governor-High Commissioner, 9 Apr. 1957; Le Péricope, May/June 1956. Ahomadegbe's own position on affiliation is not clear. According to Governor Biros, he and Traoré were the main instigators. But Glélé emphasizes that, ‘Ahornadegbe himself did not want affiliation to the R.D.A. Affiliation was imposed on him by the executive committee, which was looking for some protection’. He had delayed a decision by ‘dilatory manoeuvres’ (op. cit. 140). Glélé further stresses that affiliation was ‘dictated by domestic problems’; it was a matter of tactics, not one of ‘ideology or conviction’ (op. cit. 140–1).

17 Le Périscope, May/June 1956 (statement by Council of Elders); Governor-High Commissioner, 9 Apr. 1957.

18 Le Périscope, May/June 1956.

19 In the same elections the U.D.D. took nine of the thirty-one seats in the Porto-Novo municipality and four of the twenty-three in Parakou (France-Dahomey, 21 Nov. 1956).

20 See statements in France-Dahomey, 20 Jan 1956, 27 Mar 1956, 15 Sept. 56.

21 France-Dahomey, 17 Apr. 1956, 20 Apr. 1956; Governor-High Commissioner, 9 Apr. 1957.

22 France-Dahomey, 19 Jan 1957.

23 Governor-High Commissioner, 9 Apr. 1957. See Lombard, ‘La vie politique’, 36–7.

24 Commandant de Cercle, Savalou-Governor, 8 Mar 1957, APA/480 (Direction des Affaires Intérieures, Cotonou—afl administrative material cited hereafter is from this source).

25 The north was allotted eighteen seats, for five constituencies. The M.D.D. put up sixteen candidates in its own name, plus two ‘independents’ for Parakou. The M.D.D. was opposed in every constituency except Natitingou. On election day, there was a turnout of 45·6 per cent (102,078 out of a total electorate of 223,396). The M.D.D. (including the Parakou list) obtained 66 per cent of votes cast in the north. But one constituency alone (Natitingou) provided 65 per cent of all the M.D.D.'s votes. The party in fact won only six seats, the remainder going to independents. As Governor Biros remarked, Maga was ‘the big loser’ in the election (Governor-High Commissioner, 9 Apr. 1957).

26 Governor-High Commissioner, 9 Apr. 1957.

27 Intelligence report, 6 Mar. 1957, APA/467, Cotonou.

28 Governor-High Commissioner, 9 Apr. 1957; intelligence reports, 5 Mar. 1956, APA/444, Cotonou, 2 Mar. 1957, APA/430, Athiémé; report, Commandant de Cercle, Porto-Novo (sic), 4 Mar. 1957 68/P.V./C.

29 Governor-High Commissioner, 9 Apr. 1957.

30 Police intelligence reports, 4 Mar. 1957 68/P.V./C, Porto-Novo, 8 Mar. 1957 72/P.V./C (APA/477), Porto-Novo.

31 Police intelligence reports, 4 Mar. 1957, 68/P.V./C, Porto-Novo, 9 Mar. 1957(?), APA/495, Porto-Novo.

32 Police intelligence report, 8 Mar. 1957, 72/P.V./C (APA/477), Porto-Novo.

33 Governor-High Commissioner, 9 Apr. 1957. The Commandant de Cercle, Ouidah, said that, for the voters in his district, Apithy was ‘a fetish in a lounge suit’ (Report, Commandant de Cercle, Ouidah, 3 Apr. 1957, APA/787, Ouidah).

34 Police intelligence report, 9 Mar. 1957(?), APA/M495, Porto-Novo.

35 Namely, MM. Apithy, Sani Agata, Ahouanménou, Oké Assogba, and Kayossi.

36 Intelligence report, 5 Mar. 1957., APA/445, Cotonou; Governor-High Commissioner. 9 Apr. 1957.

37 Report, Commandant de Cercle, Ouidah, 3 Apr. 1957, APA/787, Ouidah; police intelligence report, 6 Mar. APA/483, Abomey. In Abomey the P.R.D. had the support of at least one canton chief, Justin Aho, and also of the president of the Association des Fits de Chefs, Napoléon Aho Glélé.

38 Police intelligence report, 4 Mar. 1957, 68/P.V./C, Porto-Novo; intelligence reports,5 Mar. 1957, APA/444, APA/445, Cotonou.

39 Police intelligence report, 8 Mar. 1957, 119, Cotonou.

40 Police intelligence report, 9 Mar. 1957, 123, Ouidah; report, Commandant de Cercle, Ouidah, 3 Apr. 1957, APA/787.

41 Police intelligence reports, 4 Mar. 1957, 68/P.V./C, Porto-Novo, 6 Mar. 1957, APA/483, Abomey.

42 Intelligence report, 6 Mar. 1957, APA/467, Cotonou.

43 Governor-High Commissioner, 9 Mar. 1957.

44 Governor-High Commissioner, 9 Apr. 1957.

46 Report, Commandant de Cercle, Ouidah, 3 Apr. 1957, APA/487, Ouidah.

47 Governor-High Commissioner, 9 Apr. 1957.

48 Ibid. The U.D.D. blamed its defeat on intimidation by the P.R.D., administrative bias, and support of Apithy by the larger French firms (L'Action Sociale et Populaire de Cotonou (Cotonou), 1 May 1957). The Governor was certainly hostile towards the left-wing of the U.D.D., demanding in his report on the election that ‘the territory be relieved forever’ of ‘the professional agitator’ Mamadou Traoré. On the charge of partiality, he wrote: ‘The truth is that the wild men of the U.D.D. felt the wind of defeat and, being unable to admit their mistakes, blamed them in advance on the administration’. (GovernorHigh Commissioner, 9 Apr. 1957.)

49 Intelligence report, 7 Mar. 1957, APA/471, Cotonou; police intelligence report, 4 Mar. 1957, 68/P.V./C, Porto-Novo.

50 By allocation proportionate to votes cast, the U.D.D. would have taken three seats for Porto-Novo, two for Cotonou, two for Ouidah, four for Athiémé, four for Abomey, one for Pobé-Kétou, and two for Savalou.

51 I would like to thank Charlotte Logan for her help in the preparation of this article.

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The Journal of African History
  • ISSN: 0021-8537
  • EISSN: 1469-5138
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