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Selection of New Togo PM Angers Opposition


Opposition leaders in Togo say they are angry that a little-known ruling party official has been named the country's new prime minister. They say the government should be more open to opposition parties, given the country's recent problems. Jade Heilmann has more from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Komlan Mally, 47, of the ruling Rally of the Togolese People, the RPT, has been named prime minister, following the October 14 parliamentary elections in which his party won a large majority of seats.

Monday's announcement was a surprise to many Togolese, who are not familiar with Mr. Mally, who was previously a minister of urban development.

Mr. Mally succeeds Yawovi Agboyibo, an opposition leader, who quit the post on November 13.

Mr. Mally's nomination was delayed while President Faure Gnassingbe negotiated with the main opposition party, Union of Forces for Change, known as the UFC, and others on the formation of a new government

"We don't think it is a democracy, we think it is a regime which has come from a different military system to a system that is a little softer," said Gilchrist Olympio, head of the opposition UFC.

The UFC took 27 of 81 seats in the October elections. The RPT won with 50 seats. But Olympio does not think the results reflect the popular will.

He says the UFC actually won about the same number of votes as the RPT, but given the current electoral maps, this did not translate into seats.

He says a government led by Mr. Mally will not last.

"I think he [Mally] is some sort of civil servant, unknown to the public, unknown to the political class," he said. "Our general feeling is that at the stage of the talks between the president and the opposition, the current government could only be a caretaker, or temporary government."

Olympio says the opposition is focusing on reform

"We have to find a way in one form or another to translate the will of half the electorate into institutions that are in place in Togo, and so all our emphasis is reform of institutions and the constitution," he said.

President Faure Gnassingbe took power in 2005 after the death of his father, President Gnassingbe Eyadema. The new president then won an election that the opposition alleged was marred by widespread fraud.

But international observers have applauded both the fairness and the calm they say characterized the October elections.

Ruling party officials say Togo has made progress in democratization and, as a result, has been rehabilitated by the international community.

As proof, they point to an end of European Union sanctions, which were imposed because of human rights violations in the 1990s.

But another opposition leader, Nicolas Lawson, from the Party of Renewal and Redemption, says the restoration of EU aid is unimportant.

"The help of the European Union is just a small assistance, it has even become a poison to our people, to our country, because people are thinking we can get out of poverty with the help of the outside world," he said. "No, we have to work hard, work hard, before we get out of poverty."

Ruling party spokesmen were not available for comment.

Ruling party officials have said the opposition is angry only because it did not do well in the elections, and that the president needs to govern with an official of his own party so he can focus on development, not on political problems.

They also say it is good sign the president chose someone young, like Mr. Mally, so Togo can be responsive to the country's struggling youth.

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