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Togo Government Confident President's Win Will Stand Up to Challenge

Opposition activists chant slogans towards a police officer during demonstrations in Lome, 09 March 2010

Opposition activists chant slogans towards a police officer during demonstrations in Lome, 09 March 2010

Togo's government says it is confident the president's re-election will withstand a legal challenge by political opponents.

Togo's government says it is unconcerned by the opposition's planned legal challenge to electoral results that indicate President Faure Gnassingbe won re-election with more than 60 percent of the vote.

President Gnassingbe's spokesman, Pascal Bodjona, says the ruling party's opponents are poor losers.

"There are difficulties in all countries," he says. "But after a transparent, open, and democratic election, I can not accept that the opposition is refusing to accept their failure. The opposition are not playing fair and that is sad for democracy."

Riot police broke up a demonstration against those results Tuesday. Opposition candidate Jean-Pierre Fabre says security forces seized materials that party members were preparing as part of their legal challenge to the president's announced re-election.

"There was no justification for this police action. It is illegal," Fabre says. "How can you prevent a political party from counting its votes?"

Commandant Damhane Yark heads a special protection force established for this election.

"Some people from outside the country came to Togo to make trouble during the election," says Commandant Damhane Yark who heads a special protection force established for this election. "And, they were paid by one of the country's opposition parties. My force arrested several members of Fabre's party because they threatened violence if their candidate was not declared the winner."

Presidential spokesman Bodjona says all Togolese have the constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully, but security forces also have the obligation to maintain order.

"Verbal violence brings physical violence," Bodjona says. "In Togo, everyone knows that personal liberty is respected and press freedom is recognized. Security forces must react to attacks, but this does not mean they are obstructing freedom because Togo respects democratic values and political liberties."

Opposition leaders have one week to convince Togo's constitutional court that President Gnassingbe's re-election was illegal.

"It is the ruling party that has announced these election results, so everyone knows that is not the number of votes he really won, especially in his home district," Agbeyome says. "Everyone in Togo wants a change of government."

The electoral commission says opposition candidate Nicolas Lawson finished last.

"Overall I do not know who won or who lost," Lawson says. "But I know that results reported in at least three prefectures were one-tenth of what was announced at the polling station. The vote was so expertly stolen by the ruling party that electoral observers will never understand what really happened."

Regional electoral observers say they believe the voting itself was fair, but they are concerned about the reliability of totals reported to the electoral commission after a breakdown in the satellite system that was to transmit returns from polling stations.