Opponents unite before Benin presidential 2nd round vote

Cotton tycoon and presidential candidate Patrice Talon arriving for a rally in Cotonou on March 4, 2016 (AFP Photo/Pius Utomi Ekpei) (AFP/File)

Cotonou (AFP) - Businessman Patrice Talon will team up with his beaten opponent Sebastien Ajavon to take on Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou in the second round of Benin's presidential election.

Zinsou and Talon go head-to-head this Sunday in the battle for the country's top job after winning the most votes in the first round held on March 6. Ajavon was placed third.

Reacting to the official results announced by the Constitutional Court on Sunday, Talon said Ajavon was a "great man" and a "great business operator" and that he "counted on him" for the next step.

"We're going to win together, we're going to reconstruct our country together," said Talon, who made his fortune in the cotton industry.

Ajavon, a agricultural feed magnate, for his part said he was backing Talon and would support him in the second round.

The development could pose problems for Zinsou as Talon won 23.52 percent of the overall vote in the first round and Ajavon 22.07 percent. Zinsou placed first on 27.11 percent.

Zinsou's main opponents have previously vowed to support whoever among them came out top in the first round in the second-round run-off against President Thomas Boni Yayi's chosen candidate.

Boni Yayi is stepping down after completing two full five-year terms of office.

Talon also called on the economist Abdoulaye Bio Tchane, who won 8.29 percent of the votes and the former prime minister Pascal Irenee Koupaki (5.6 percent) to join them.

Zinsou, who quit as head of France's biggest investment bank last year to become prime minister, has been described by critics as France's preferred candidate in its former colony.

He said candidates were often voted for on the strength of their record in office in the first round but in the second it was a contest between two people "for the future" of the country.

His team said it remained "confident and calm" and were looking to mobilise non-voters to win the second round.

According to the electoral commission, turn-out in the first round was 64.03 percent.