Benin PM Zinsou faces run-off in presidential election

Lionel Zinsou, Benin's Prime Minister and presidential candidate, casts his vote during a presidential election at a polling station in Cotonou, Benin March 6, 2016. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

COTONOU (Reuters) - Benin’s Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou will face a run-off against businessman Patrice Talon in a second round of presidential elections, after getting 28.4 percent of votes, provisional results showed on Tuesday.

Sunday’s election, which was contested by 33 candidates, is to choose a successor to President Thomas Boni Yayi, who is stepping down from power in the small West African state after two terms as mandated by the constitution.

Zinsou and Talon, who won 24.8 percent of the vote, will now have to compete for the support of the candidates who came third and below. The date for the run-off was not announced.

The provisional results, released by electoral commission, must be confirmed by the constitutional court and a challenge by one of the candidates appeared possible, not least because Sebastien Ajavon won 23.03 percent to finish just behind Talon.

Boni Yayi’s decision to step down is in contrast to leaders in countries such as Burundi, Rwanda and the Congo Republic, who have changed their countries’ constitutions to pave the way for a third term.

Benin was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to make the transition from dictatorship to multi-party democracy. The country produces cotton but its economy is flagging, in part because falling oil prices have hit its giant neighbor Nigeria.

Reporting by Allegresse Sasse and Samuel Elijah; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Andrew Heavens