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Togo Government, Opposition Agree on Elections

  • Gabi Menezes

Togo's main opposition and ruling parties have signed an agreement on supervising April elections. But the opposition is still worried there isn't enough time to revise voter lists and campaign effectively.

The West African regional grouping ECOWAS brokered the agreement between Togo's main opposition and the ruling party, which stipulates that each party will have two members on the commission revising voters rolls, and two observers at each polling station during voting.

The two parties have also agreed to preserve peace during elections, reject intimidation and refrain from defaming each other's candidates.

Togolese journalist Modeste Messavuusuu is optimistic about the protocol which he says can benefit the main opposition Union of Forces for Change.

Mr. Messavuusuu says it can at least give the possibility of a transparent election.

But two other minor opposition candidates, Nicolas Lawson and Harry Olympio, refused to be part of the accords and are demanding elections be postponed for a month for better preparations. Mr. Olympio says that officials are preventing some opposition supporters from registering.

The candidate for the main opposition party, the Union of Forces for Change, Bob Akitani has also asked for elections to be pushed back to give the opposition a realistic chance of victory.

ECOWAS has already endorsed April 24 as the date for voting, even though this is too soon for European and African Union election monitors to be put in place.

The election was called after the sudden death of long time leader Gnassingbe Eyadema in Feburary. His son, Faure Gnassingbe, who was briefly installed as president by the military before widespread criticism, will be the candidate of the ruling party.

The director of the Nigerian based Center for Democracy and Development, Mr. Kayode Fayeme, says that ECOWAS has not gone far enough to make sure the elections are fair.

"Don't let's forget that Togo already has a system that has been entrenched, put in place for over 38 odd years of one party rule, if you like," he said. "I mean, forget the fact that it has been a multi-party democracy for some time, but the truth of the matter is that that was only in name."

Mr. Fayeme is sending a team to Togo to investigate allegations of fraud in registering voters, and recommends that an international team to organize the election also be put in place, although this appears unlikely as well.