Benin prime minister named presidential candidate

WEB_PHOTO_DANIEL_DUNCAN_LIONELZINSOU_MODIBOKEITA_27_11_2015

Ivorian PM Daniel Kablan Duncan (R) and his counterparts from Benin Lionel Zinsou (2ndR) and Mali Modibo Keita(3rdR) on 30 June 2015 in Abidjan. Zinsou was named Benin's ruling party's presidential candidate on Thursday 26 Nov. 2015.

COTONOU - Benin&39;s Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou was Thursday named as the ruling party&39;s candidate for February&39;s presidential elections, following a meeting with President Thomas Boni Yayi and lawmakers in his party.

"Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou was nominated as the FCBE presidential candidate at the end of a short meeting yesterday with the head of state," MP Bida Nouhoum, spokesman for the Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin (FCBE), told AFP.

A French-born former financier in his sixties, Zinsou is a nephew of former president Emile Derlin Zinsou and a key figure in relations between France and Africa.

He left his lucrative job as head of European investment firm PAI Partners following his appointment in June as prime minister of the small west African nation.

Zinsou had also worked for investment bank Rothschild and was special advisor to Benin&39;s president in 2006-11.

"Lionel Zinsou was chosen for his experience and his ability to continue the work begun by President Boni Yayi," Nouhoum said.

Boni Yayi created a stir when he appointed Zinsou prime minister within a year of the end of his term, with observers wondering if he was positioning the financier as his anointed successor.

"We knew that this appointment, less than a year from the end of Yayi&39;s term, was a window offered to him to run for the highest office," Wilfried Leandre Houngbedji, columnist for the Nation, told AFP.

Zinsou last year spearheaded discussions in Paris to secure some 18 billion euros ($20 billion) in international financing from both the public and private sectors for economic development in Benin.

"Mr Zinsou for us is the choice of reason because it maintains national unity," the ruling party spokesman said.

Zinsou also chairs the French-African Foundation for Growth, an institution created in December 2013 to rejuvenate economic relations between France and Africa.