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Togo's Opposition Vows Action If Incumbant Eyadema Declared Winner - 2003-06-03

Opposition activists in Togo are threatening to take to the streets if their candidate, Bob Emmanuel Akitani, is not declared the winner in Sunday's controversial presidential election. Early official results give Africa's longest-ruling leader, Gnassingbe Eyadema, a wide lead.

Results announced late Monday give President Eyadema 60 percent of the vote with 35 percent for Mr. Akitani. The government says 40 percent of the ballots have been counted.

Authorities said the ballots counted came from throughout Togo. Earlier reports indicated Mr. Akitani had won about 80 percent of the vote in the capital Lome, an opposition stronghold.

The results giving Mr. Eyadema the wide lead sparked celebrations by the president's supporters in Lome.

In another part of the city, security forces were deployed at the opposition headquarters to prevent protests.

Campaign managers for Mr. Akitani say they have won the election and that they will form their own government this week. Spokesman Jean-Pierre Fabre said militants are now awaiting instructions.

Mr. Fabre said it is the calm before the storm. He said if Mr. Akitani is denied his victory, justice will prevail.

Mr. Akitani has the support of popular exiled opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio, who said in Paris Monday that he also believes Mr. Akitani is the winner of the election.

Interior Minister Francois Boko said such statements are non-events.

Mr. Boko is calling on all candidates to respect the rules of the election and await the final results. He said if the opposition is not satisfied it should mount a challenge through the court system and not on the streets.

Opposition parties say there was massive vote rigging during Sunday's voting in northern government strongholds and that many voters in the south were prevented from voting because they could not get their voting cards.

Angry youths who were prevented from voting went on a rampage 30 kilometers north of Lome on Sunday, attacking several polling stations, before being dispersed by police. Opposition activists say two people were killed, but Interior Minister Boko says an injured policeman was the only casualty.

Election observers, such as Martin Luther King III, also expressed concern about the issue of voting cards. Mr. King, the son of the slain U.S. civil rights leader, said he hopes the announcement of final results will not be followed by more violence.

"We do not know what may happen when results are announced. I think we have to wait until that happens and certainly hope for the best, hope a form of stability is retained and that people do not get so anxious that they are so angry that they create friction and tension," Mr. King said.

Final results could come late Tuesday or sometime Wednesday. Many businesses in Lome have been closed since election day because of fears the announcement of the results could spark violence.