Togo's President Faure Gnassingbe declared an electoral victory on Monday and called on his rivals to drop a competing claim, with official preliminary results showing him re-elected in a landslide.
The win, if confirmed, will give Gnassingbe a fourth five-year term and extend a family dynasty that began when his father took power in a 1967 coup. But some Togolese worry that a contested outcome could lead to political violence.
Preliminary figures released by the electoral commission showed Gnassingbe winning with 72 percent of the vote, with his main opponent, former Prime Minister Gabriel Messan Agbeyome Kodjo, at 18%. Longtime opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre received just 4%. Final results are expected in the coming days.
Kodjo said before the results were announced that his camp's tallies showed him winning around 60 percent of the vote. The president dismissed any such claim as fiction and told his rivals to accept the official result.
‘To my unlucky adversaries, I would like to tell them, this is the game of democracy,’ Gnassingbe told supporters in the early hours of Monday morning. ‘Let's stop improvising, stop inventing imaginary numbers and submit to the judgment of the Togolese people.’
Togo has seen protests in the past by demonstrators who say the president has illegally outstayed his welcome. When Gnassingbe came to power in 2005 after his father's death, mass protests against the family's rule were met with a violent police crackdown during which at least 500 people were killed.
The streets of the oceanside capital Lome were calm early on Monday morning.
Another five-year term for Gnassingbe would be a blow to Togo's fractured opposition, which is desperate for change but has been unable to launch a concerted political campaign against the president.
In response to political pressure, Gnassingbe enacted a law last year limiting presidents to two five-year terms. It does not account for the three terms he has already served, allowing him to stay in power until 2030.
Togo is the 10th poorest country in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Gnassingbe has long promised to boost economic development and the country has seen annual economic growth of around 5% in recent years driven by investment in energy and transport, but grinding poverty and labour strikes are reminders of challenges.
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