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Vote Counting Under way in Togo's Legislative Election


In Togo, vote counting is under way after Sunday's legislative election, the first major challenge to the ruling party. Observers say election day was mostly problem free, except for a shortage of voting supplies. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's West Africa Bureau in Dakar.

More than 3,000 election monitors are tracking the count from the closely watched election in Togo.

The head of an 80-member E.U. monitoring team, Fiona Hall, says there were some problems on Sunday with the new sticker system of verifying ballots.

Observers said some polls in the capital ran out of stickers, which led to delays.

"I think the logistical difficulties that there were over the stickers were really because of the fact it was fairly a last-minute decision to have it and perhaps it was inevitable that there would be one or two hiccups," said Hall.

The leading opposition party, Union of Forces for Change, had pushed to verify the ballots with poll workers' signatures, a plan opposed by the ruling party, Rally for the Togolese People.

Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore suggested using stickers as a compromise and flew in three million just days before the election.

Mr. Compaore had mediated an agreement between the opposition and ruling party after Togo's deadly presidential poll in 2005 that sent tens of thousands fleeing.

Election monitor Hall says even though some polls did not have enough stickers, people were still able to vote.

But the spokesman for the Union of Forces for Change, Jean Ekloh, says he fears ballots for the opposition will be invalidated because of the stickers.

Ekloh says the party is on guard because in recent elections, the results have not reflected the will of voters.

Since Togo introduced a multi-party system in the early 1990's, elections have been marred by accusations of fraud, security crackdowns and bloodshed.

EU election monitor Hall says Sunday's poll is proceeding better than past elections.

"I think that given that human beings are not perfect, it is probably not possible to have a perfect election," said Hall. "The important thing is to have an election, which overall is very firmly going well, and I think that is where we are at the moment."

But she says it is still too early to evaluate the election.

President Faure Gnassingbe has said he is committed to a transparent election, and will do everything possible to convince skeptics.

The electoral commission has said results will be available Wednesday, at the earliest.

More than two-thousand candidates from 32 parties, and some independents, are vying for 81 positions.

The European Union and other donors have said they will only consider investing more in Togo if it can hold a free and fair election.

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