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Togo Court Rules Opposition Leader Ineligible for Presidential Ballot - 2003-05-07

Togo's constitutional court has rejected an appeal by the country's main opposition leader to run in the June 1 presidential election. But Togo's opposition says it will still make a strong effort in the election.

Togo's constitutional court sided with the country's electoral commission late Tuesday in declaring that registration papers filed by Gilchrist Olympio are incomplete.

Mr. Olympio was unable to file required tax records and proof of residency in Togo, because he lives in exile in Europe.

His campaign manager Jean-Pierre Fabre says many opposition supporters are furious.

Mr. Fabre also says Mr. Olympio's supporters will take to the streets in an effort to make authorities reverse the decision.

Witnesses in Lome say bands of youths set fire to a few gas stations in a pro-opposition neighborhood of the capital. Local residents say there is a heavy security presence in the city.

Togo's government has warned opposition activists not to disrupt the country during the election campaign.

Five other opposition leaders are being allowed to run in next month's election, but none of them is as well-known as Mr. Olympio, who won more than 30 percent of the vote in 1998.

President Gnassingbe Eyadema, who has been in power since 1967, is seeking another five-year term. Togo's constitution was amended in December to allow him to run again. He had previously said he would step down.

The campaign is scheduled to begin officially May 15.