Benin presidential opponent elected head of parliament

Opposition leader Adrien Houngbedji, pictured, has been elected head of Benin's national assembly (AFP Photo/Pius Utomi Ekpei)

Cotonou (AFP) - Opposition leader Adrien Houngbedji was on Wednesday elected head of Benin's national assembly, possibly threatening the president's hopes of pushing through a controversial amendment to the constitution.

Houngbedji, of the Democratic Renewal Party (PRD), won 42 of the 83 votes cast, beating Komi Kotche, who was backed by Benin's President Thomas Boni Yayi and his Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin (FCBE), by just one vote.

"Adrien Houngbedji is elected president of the national assembly," said lawmaker Rosine Vieyra Soglo after the vote, which ran into the early hours of Wednesday.

Boni Yayi has been campaigning for a constitutional reform bill that he says would help curb corruption but which his opponents say is actually aimed at scrapping presidential term limits, allowing him to stand for a third term in polls next year.

Boni Yayi has always denied wanting to extend his time in power.

The reform bill needs to be approved by lawmakers, so having an opposition leader at the head of parliament could serve as a potential roadblock to Boni Yayi's much desired constitutional amendment.

The president's FCBE won last month's parliamentary elections but did not obtain an absolute majority, securing just 33 seats out of 83 available.

The PRD only won 10 seats but managed to secure the backing of several smaller opposition parties for the national assembly presidency vote.

Houngbedji, who ran for president in 2011 and won 36 percent of the vote, has been head of the national assembly on two previous occasions (1991-95 and 1999-2003).

Benin's Constitutional Court meanwhile announced on Tuesday that municipal and local elections scheduled for May 31 will now be held on June 28.

The delay follows a request from the country's electoral commission because schools used as polling stations will not be available due to end-of-term examinations in early June.