Togo opposition rejects ruling party win in parliament vote

AFP , Monday 29 Jul 2013

The West African nation's constitutional court must still approve the results from Thursday's election before they become final

Togo's main opposition on Monday rejected provisional electoral results showing the ruling party winning two-thirds of parliamentary seats, allowing the president's family to maintain its decades-long grip on power.

The main opposition coalition, Let's Save Togo, had alleged irregularities even before full results in Togo's parliamentary elections were announced by the electoral commission on Sunday night.

Agbeyome Kodjo, a key figure in Let's Save Togo, on Monday called the vote and results a "sham".

"It's an electoral sham amid massive corruption and proven electoral fraud," Kodjo, a former prime minister whose OBUTS party joined with Let's Save Togo for the elections, told AFP.

The West African nation's constitutional court must still approve the results from Thursday's election before they become final.

According to results released Sunday night by the electoral commission, President Faure Gnassingbe's UNIR party won 62 of 91 seats, giving it a two-thirds majority in parliament.

If the results stand, the president's party will control an even greater percentage of seats than it does currently. It won 50 of 81 seats in the last legislative elections in 2007.

The closest opposition party was Let's Save Togo with 19 seats.

Observers from the African Union and West African bloc ECOWAS have said that the elections were held in acceptable conditions.

UNIR performed particularly well in the north, its traditional stronghold. Let's Save Togo is stronger in the south and won seven of 10 seats in the capital Lome.

The government minister for territorial administration, Gilbert Bawara, declined to discuss the opposition's claims in detail.

"We don't want to get involved in a debate," he told AFP. "If the opposition has precise details, let them use legal means of recourse."

The long-delayed polls came after months of protests, with the opposition seeking sweeping electoral reforms.

Many of the protests were dispersed by security forces firing tear gas, while some 35 people, mostly opposition members, were detained in the run-up to the vote in connection with suspicious fires at two major markets.

Thirteen opposition members held over the fires have since been released, including five candidates in Thursday's polls.

The most prominent Let's Save Togo candidate was Jean Pierre Fabre, the longtime opposition leader who finished second to Gnassingbe in 2010 presidential elections.

Opposition members had at first threatened a boycott of the election, but they eventually agreed to participate after negotiations which allowed members access to polling places and granted them state financing for campaigning.

The second-largest opposition formation in the elections was the Rainbow coalition, with six seats.

The party of Gilchrist Olympio, another veteran opposition leader and son of the country's first post-independence president, won three seats. Olympio was not a candidate in the election.

Olympio, whose father was assassinated in a 1963 coup in which the current president's father took part, agreed to a deal in 2010 to have his faction of the opposition join Gnassingbe's government.

The polls were the latest step in the impoverished country's transition to democracy after Gnassingbe Eyadema's rule from 1967 to his death in 2005, when the military installed his son, Faure Gnassingbe, as president.

The government in the country of six million people argues that it is committed to reforms and says it is working to improve the economy and infrastructure, but the opposition disputes the claims.

Presidential elections in 2005 were marred by deadly violence, while 2007 and 2010 polls were viewed by observers as significant steps forward.

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