Togo’s defeated opposition said yesterday it would contest an election result last week which returned President Faure Gnassingbe as leader of the West African state.
The election was seen as a test for democracy in a region that in recent weeks has seen a coup in Niger and street riots over delayed elections in Ivory Coast. Togo’s last presidential poll in 2005 sparked violence in which hundreds died.
Gnassingbe, who took over after 38 years of dictatorship under his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, won 1.24 million of 2.1 million cast votes in Thursday’s election.
His closest rival, Jean-Pierre Fabre, scored around 692,000 votes, the electoral commission said on Saturday. Both sides had claimed victory last Friday.
“We will contest these figures constituency by constituency to show there has been an electoral hijack,” Koffi Yamgnane, spokesperson for Fabre’s UFC party, told French radio station RFI.
International observers said the poll had gone smoothly, despite some procedural flaws. More than 3 000 local and nearly 500 European and West African observers monitored the election.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called in a statement for the same “calm and restraint” that was seen on voting day and urged political leaders to resolve any electoral grievances through “legal and institutional channels.”
The opposition has eight days to convince the constitutional court Gnassingbe’s victory was unlawful. Hours before the result was announced, police fired teargas to break up a protest by supporters of Fabre. Ten people were arrested in the clash.
“No” to violent protest
The protests that followed Gnassingbe’s first victory in 2005 triggered a security crackdown in which up to 500 were killed, according to UN estimates at the time.
The UFC said there would be no violent protest this time.
“We have no intention of protesting violently,” party spokesperson Yamgnane said.
The streets of the capital Lome were calm over the weekend and life was returning to normal, residents said.
“We’ve opened for business this morning, though we’re keeping an eye on the street,” said market trader Da Mensah. “We can’t stay at home because of politicians.”
Turnout was just under 65%, according to a statement on the Togolese government website. Half the 6.6 million population were registered to vote.
“If people have voted then stay calmly at home, the army won’t get involved,” said motorcycle taxi driver Jean Anoumou, who said he had been working all night. “I don’t think there will be violence like there was in 2005.”
Togo is a top five producer of phosphates, which are used in fertilisers, but remains poor and dependent on foreign aid.
Togo faced international criticism after the 2005 violence and foreign aid was suspended but a parliamentary election two years later was judged fair enough for aid to be restored and ties made with bodies such as the International Monetary Fund.
Togo is near the bottom of the UN’s human development index and saw several years of negative growth in the past decade. The state budget for 2010 is around 500 CFA francs or $1.09 billion.
Togo’s phosphate industry has gone into decline due to a lack of investment, with annual output slipping to around 900 000 tonnes from 1.2 million in 2006.
Pic: President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo