President: Thomas Boni Yayi
Thomas Boni Yayi won presidential elections in March 2006, and again in 2011. He won 75% of the votes in the 2006 polls, but managed only 53% in the 2011 elections. These later polls were postponed twice and their results were disputed by the main challenger, Adrien Houngbedji.
Mr Yayi a former head of the Togo-based West African Development Bank, lost considerable support during an economic downturn and a pyramid investment scheme scandal in 2010. This scandal involved several senior officials, and more than 100,000 people are reported to have lost their money.
Recent years have seen two unverified allegations of plots against the president. In 2012 Mr Yayi said he had survived an attempted poisoning, and police claimed they had foiled a coup attempt against him in March 2013 linked to the poisoning affair.
Born in 1952 into a Muslim family in the north, Mr Yayi later became an evangelical Christian.
His predecessor, former army major Mathieu Kerekou, had led Benin for all but five years after seizing power in 1972. He earned the country the label of "Africa's Cuba" before dropping Marxism in 1990. He was barred by a constitutional age limit from running in 2006.
Benin's president heads the government, the state and the military, and appoints the cabinet.