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Togo Votes Saturday in Presidential Poll

  • Anne Look
  • Modeste Messavusso

Incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe, who is running for a third term, waves to a crowd at a campaign rally in Tado, Togo, April 13, 2015.

Incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe, who is running for a third term, waves to a crowd at a campaign rally in Tado, Togo, April 13, 2015.

Thursday is the last day of campaigning in Togo before Saturday’s presidential poll. President Faure Gnassingbe faces four challengers in his bid for a third term.

The Gnassingbe family has ruled Togo for nearly 50 years since Gnassingbe Eyadema took power in a military coup in 1967. His son, Faure Gnassingbe, stepped into the office in 2005 when his father died.

Some people in the West African nation say it is time to move on.

One voter said having the same family in power for several generations already has hurt the country. "We are a bit sick of the name even," he said. He noted that neighboring countries have had three or four presidents during that same time span, and he said he thinks someone new at the top will bring innovation.

Other voters say the Gnassignbes are not the problem, though, nor do they think the incumbent will lose.

Another voter said change does not have to mean a new president. It could just be a new program or new ideas. He said he wants change, and the candidate platform that best addresses his needs are the president’s.

"He can win and still change certain strategies and ways of working so Togo can stay on the right path," he said.

Six parties are boycotting this election. Three other parties are backing Gnassingbe.

The opposition tried and failed to get parliament to put a two-term limit in the constitution last year. A key force behind that proposed reform was Jean Pierre Fabre, the opposition frontrunner in this election. Fabre’s camp says a win would be a “rebirth” for Togo.

Both Gnassingbe and Fabre claimed victory in the 2010 election. Fabre said there was fraud and intimidation. The dispute led to violent street protests.

Voters say they want a peaceful election. Beyond that, they say they want better daily lives and equal access to opportunity.

Another voter in Lome said young people need work. People should be able to eat three times a day. He said Togo should join other emerging nations. This country is taking off, he said, but that success needs to reach everyone.

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