Benin’s prime minister conceded defeat to businessman Patrice Talon on Monday as preliminary results from a presidential run-off election gave the cotton magnate an insurmountable lead, paving the way for a peaceful transition of power. Talon faced off against Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou on Sunday in a poll to decide which of the two would replace President Thomas Boni Yayi, who is stepping down after serving two terms in office. The election was seen as reinforcing the democratic credentials of Benin, a bastion of stability in a troubled region where military coups are a regular occurrence and polls are often marred by violence. Preliminary results from the electoral commission put Talon ahead with 65 percent of votes, while Zinzou had 35 percent. Only votes from abroad were yet to be counted, the commission said.
“I feel like a soldier packing for the front. This is not a day of glory – congratulations will have to wait,” Talon said on Monday. “The task will not be easy, but we are happy and excited that our country has turned the page.”
Talon was once a staunch supporter of Boni Yayi before falling out of favor. Boni Yayi later accused him of involvement in a plot to poison him.
Mediation efforts led to a presidential pardon, however, and Talon returned from exile in France in October.