Togo voted yesterday in an election widely expected to see President Faure Gnassingbe claim a fourth term in power and extend his family’s half-century domination of the West African nation.
The incumbent, 53, was running against six other candidates but with the opposition divided they face a mammoth task to persuade the
3.6mn registered voters to oust him.
Polling day was reported to be calm with a moderate turnout, although many voters had vowed not to take part in an election they describe as neither free nor fair.
Gnassingbe has led the country of 8mn people since 2005 following the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled for 38 years.
He travelled to the family’s home region of Kara to vote, and called on Togolese to “express your choice in complete freedom for the sake of democracy”.Main opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre of the National Alliance for Change came second at the last two elections but has failed to keep the opposition united.
He called on the people to vote in numbers “to prevent fraud and allow for a second round”.Agbeyome Kodjo, who served as prime minister under Gnassingbe’s father, is seen as a potential dark horse after winning the backing of an influential Catholic archbishop.
“The Togolese want change, they want an alternative,” said Kodjo.
“And when we see all this mobilisation and all the methods of fraud put in place by the government, if at the end of the election, the government dares to say that it has won, imagine the rest.”
In Lome, some voters were out early in the hope the election may bring much-needed change.
“We suffer too much in Togo, this time it has to change,” said Eric, a driver in his 30s.
“I am not going to tell you who I will vote for, but this time we don’t want to be cheated of victory.”
Ruling party supporter Balakebawi Agbang urged people “to turn out in force to make the right choice” so the government can continue its work.
Polls closed at 1600 GMT and results are expected early next week according to electoral officials. In Be, an opposition district of Lome, some voters chanted slogans calling for the electoral authorities to scrutinise every ballot paper.
The authorities faced major protests in 2017 and 2018 demanding an end to five decades of dynastic rule that have failed to lift many out of poverty.
But the demonstrations petered out in the face of government repression and squabbles among the opposition.
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