Adrien Houngbédji (born March 5, 1942) is a Beninese politician and the leader of the Democratic Renewal Party (Parti du renouveau démocratique, PRD), one of Benin's main political parties. He was President of the National Assembly of Benin from 1991 to 1995, Prime Minister of Benin from 1996 to 1998, and President of the National Assembly for a second time from 1999 to 2003. He has stood as a candidate in every presidential election since 1991.
Adrien Houngbédji was born in Aplahoué (Benin) in 1942. He earned a Doctorate in Law from the University of Paris in 1967 and graduated the same year from the French National School of Magistrate, first in his class. In August 1968 he joined the bar in Cotonou where he ran a prominent law office. After agreeing to represent an opponent of the regime of Mathieu Kérékou, he was arrested in February 1975. On March 5, 1975, Houngbédji escaped from prison and fled into exile; shortly afterward he was sentenced to death. He went to Paris, then to Dakar, Senegal, where he taught law, before going to Libreville, Gabon, where he again practiced law.
In Gabon he was close to President Omar Bongo, and Bongo encouraged Houngbédji to return to Benin in December 1989 after an amnesty was issued by the Kérékou regime, providing him with a plane and sending a Gabonese Minister of State to accompany him. Houngbédji participated in the February 1990 National Conference that led the country towards a multi-party democracy. He was favored by Kérékou to become prime minister at the National Conference, but Nicéphore Soglo found more favor with the delegates, and Houngbédji withdrew from the contest prior to the vote, in which Soglo was elected. Although considered by many to have been an ally of the Kérékou regime at the time of the National Conference, Houngbédji has written that he was actually an "enlightened adversary" of the regime. In March 1990 he founded the Democratic Renewal Party, and in early 1991 he was elected to the National Assembly of Benin. He ran in the March 1991 presidential election, taking fifth place with 4.54% of the vote. He was elected as President of the National Assembly in 1991, serving until 1995.
In the March 1995 parliamentary election, the PRD, along with other parties opposed to President Nicéphore Soglo, won a majority of seats in the National Assembly, and Houngbédji was re-elected to the Assembly. He took third place, with 19.71% of the vote, in the first round of the March 1996 presidential election, and he supported Kérékou in the second round of the election. Houngbédji was then appointed Prime Minister (a position which was recreated on this occasion) by Kérékou in April 1996, serving in that position for two years. On May 8, 1998, Houngbédji resigned, along with the three other PRD ministers in the government; the position of prime minister was eliminated in the next government, named on May 14.
Houngbédji and the PRD were part of the opposition in the March 1999 parliamentary election, and the opposition succeeded in winning a majority of seats; Houngbédji was re-elected to the National Assembly and was elected President of the National Assembly for a second time on April 29, defeating Kérékou's favored candidate Bruno Amoussou with 45 votes against Amoussou's 38 votes. He remained in the post until 2003. He was also elected co-president of the Africa Caribbean Pacific - European Union (ACP-EU) Joint Parliamentary Assembly in 2001.
In the March 2001 presidential election, he took third place and 12.62% of the vote; along with former President Soglo, who finished second, he refused to participate in a second round because of alleged fraud. Fourth-place candidate Bruno Amoussou therefore faced Kérékou in the second round, and Amoussou lost by a large margin.
On February 13, 2003, Houngbédji was elected as mayor of Benin's administrative capital, Porto Novo, by the city's council; he took office on the same day. Houngbédji was re-elected to the National Assembly in the March 2003 parliamentary election, and in April 2003 he left the opposition to join the presidential majority. He resigned as Mayor of Porto Novo in June 2003.
Houngbédji ran for president again in the March 2006 presidential election, and on this occasion an article in the constitution excluding Kérékou and Soglo from the race made Houngbédji a favorite. In the first round, held on March 5, he placed second, with about 24% of the vote according to official results, behind Yayi Boni with about 35%; therefore a run-off between Houngbédji and Boni was held on March 19. Houngbédji lost this round, with Yayi Boni receiving almost 75% of the vote.
Houngbédji was re-elected to the National Assembly in the March 2007 parliamentary election. He was again defeated by Yayi Boni in the March 2011 presidential election, although he disputed the official results, which showed Boni winning a first-round majority. At the PRD's Third Ordinary Congress, held in February 2012, Houngbédji was re-elected as President of the PRD.
A member of the "Académie des Sciences d’Outre Mer", Houngbédji wrote a book in October 2005 presenting his political vision of Benin and Africa titled "Il n’y a de richesse que d’hommes" (publisher: éditions l'Archipel).
- National Assembly page on Houngbédji, bj.refer.org (French).
- Adrien Houngbédji, Il n'y a de richesse que d'hommes (French).
- Jennifer C. Seely, "African Transitions to Democracy: Bargaining among Social Groups".
- Chris Allen, "'Goodbye to All That': The Short and Sad Story of Socialism in Benin", in Marxism's Retreat from Africa, ed. Arnold Hughes, page 71.
- Elections in Benin, African Elections Database.
- "Profiles of front-runners in presidential race", IRIN, March 3, 2006.
- Benin government page on former presidents of the National Assembly.
- Benin, Year in Review: 1995, Britannica.com.
- Samuel Decalo, "Benin: First of the New Democracies", in Political Reform in Francophone Africa (1997), page 61, note 21.
- "Apr 1996 - Acceptance of defeat by Soglo - New government", Keesing's Record of World Events, volume 42, April 1996 Benin, page 41,031.
- "Benin: Prime Minister Houngbedji, three other ministers step down", AFP (nl.newsbank.com), May 9, 1998.
- Benin, Year in Review: 1998, Britannica.com.
- Benin, Year in Review: 1999, Britannica.com.
- Results of the 1999 parliamentary election, bj.refer.org (French).
- ACP-EU page on Houngbédji.
- "Benin 'day of mourning'", BBC.co.uk, April 6, 2001.
- "Ex-president elected mayor of Cotonou", IRIN, February 17, 2003.
- "Programme summary of Radio Benin news 1930 gmt 13 Feb 03", Radio Benin (nl.newsbank.com), February 14, 2003.
- List of deputies elected in the 2003 election, Benin government page.
- "Benin: Opposition leader joins presidential coalition", Radio France Internationale (nl.newsbank.com), April 10, 2003.
- "Mairie de Porto-Novo : Les circonstances de la démission de Me Houngbédji", official website for 2003 parliamentary election, June 6, 2003 (French).
- "Porto-Novo mayor resigns", Panapress, June 12, 2003.
- "Proclamation des résultats des élections législatives du 31 mars 2007", BeninInfo.com (French).
- "3ème congrès ordinaire du parti Renouveau Démocratique: Me Adrien Houngbédji reconduit comme président", Quotidien Le Matin, 13 February 2012 (French).