Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou conceded defeat to businessman Patrice Talon on Monday after preliminary results from the second round of the presidential election were announced.
“The provisional results point to a decisive victory for Patrice Talon. I have called him this evening to congratulate him on his victory, wish him good luck and put myself at his disposal to prepare for the handover,” the prime minister said.
Mr. Talon and Mr. Zinsou competed to replace incumbent President Thomas Boni Yayi, who is stepping down after serving two terms.
The 61-year-old prime minister had defeated Mr. Talon in the first round on March 6 with 27.1 percent of the vote to Mr. Talon’s 23.5 percent. However, according to the results that are being reported, Mr. Talon won 65 percent of the vote in the final round, leaving Mr. Zinsou with 35 percent.
"I feel like a soldier packing for the front. This is not a day of glory - congratulations will have to wait," Mr. Talon said on Monday. "The task will not be easy, but we are happy and excited that our country has turned the page.”
Mr. Zinsou, a former economist and investment banker, was a candidate for the incumbent’s party, the Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin, and was initially seen as the frontrunner.
Mr. Talon, who made his fortune from the cotton industry, billed himself as the authentic Beninese candidate, as opposed to Mr. Zinsou, who was educated in France. Due to his time spent in France, Mr. Zinsou gained a reputation as an outsider in Benin, and was frequently called a “yovo” or “the white man” throughout the campaign.
Poverty, unemployment, and other economic issues were at the forefront of both candidates’ campaigns.