The interim leader in the west African nation of Togo has replaced Interior Minister Francois Boko, after Mr. Boko's sudden call to cancel Sunday's election, amid fears of violence. Voters are to choose a successor to four-decade ruler Gnassingbe Eyadema, who died earlier this year, and was briefly replaced in a coup by his son, now the ruling party's candidate.
Speaking on international radio, interim leader Abass Bonfoh says he was taken aback by the surprise announcement by Mr. Boko. He said, despite the warning, the elections should go ahead.
He also hinted that it was maybe Mr. Boko himself who was preparing violence. The interior minister was then dismissed, and his functions taken over by Justice Minister Foli Basi-Katari.
Speaking to journalists and diplomats at two in the morning Friday, Mr. Boko said it would be, "suicidal" to hold the election on time.
Instead, he suggested the interim president name an opposition prime minister, and that proper elections be held in one to two years time. After his announcement, Mr. Boko's phone was cut off, and he did not go to his offices.
The main opposition candidate, Emmanuel Akitani-Bob, campaigning on a platform of what he says is emancipation, has also called for a delay, saying conditions are not right for a free and fair vote.
|Opposition supporters armed with sticks speed past a sign for ruling-party candidate Faure Gnassingbe |
But on the final day of campaigning in Lome, his supporters took to the streets wearing yellow headscarves and waving palm leaves, some of them also wielding machetes, including English-speaker Michael, who said it was important to go ahead with voting. "I like elections, let's just vote," he said. "We are going to vote. We are not slaves, we are human beings, we want our country to be a good country."
Opposition supporters sang that, unlike ruling party supporters, they are not paid to vote.
Nearby, a shoe salesman, Joseph, said the situation seemed very unstable. "We are expecting the election, and today is the final campaigning. So, now, unfortunately, we now hear some story this morning, there's nothing we can do," he said. "Well, I have to be afraid like this, I am a human being."
With French chants of "Faure is strong," the son of the late ruler Gnassingbe Eyadema, Faure Gnassingbe, has been campaigning on a platform of youth power. He says the youth owe everything to their parents, but that they now have to take over. He has also appealed for calm, following deadly street violence in the aftermath of his father's death.
The opposition has accused authorities of rigging voter lists and ordering different types of ink to allow multiple voting, charges officials have denied.
Mr. Gnassingbe gave up power after being installed by the military in February, and accepted calls by the regional West African grouping, ECOWAS, to have quick elections. More than 150 election monitors from the grouping are in Togo to observe proceedings. The European Union, which has cut off aid since the 1990s, said it did not have enough time to send its own observers.