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More Than Three Million Voters Expected in Togo's Presidential Race

Polls are open in Togo for the country's presidential elections. 

Violence plagued Togo's previous presidential election in 2005 and officials expressed hopes that this year's voting would be peaceful.

The president of Togo's independent electoral commission, Tabiou Issifou Taff, vowed elections would be fair.  Wednesday, he spoke about the importance of the voters' right to choose their candidates privately.

After he voted, leading opposition figure Jean-Pierre Fabre said he was very confident, because his campaign centered on change.

Fabre is the main challenger to President Faure Gnasssingbe, who is seeking a second term.  He is the son of former President Gnassingbe Eyadema, whose dictatorial rule over the country lasted 38 years. His son's election in 2005 was mired in controversy and was violently disputed.  The United Nations estimated the death toll at up to 500, and thousands fled the country.

More than 3.2 million people are registered to vote in the West African country and nearly 6,000 polling centers were set to be open.

Six candidates are competing against Mr. Gnassingbe.  The candidate for the Party for Renewal and Redemption, Nicolas Lawson, said he hopes a new page will be turned in the country's election. "We need stability, peace and discipline," said the politician, adding that the Togolese have suffered enough from a divisive political climate.

This election is seen as a vital test for the country's democracy.  Taff says the independent electoral commission is committed to a just election that will allow Togo to progress.

On Wednesday, a top Economic Community of West African States official, Abdel-Fatau-Musah, told Voice of America his organization expects the elections to be free and fair.  But he also said they are worried about post-results violence that may erupt. 

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