News / Africa

Togo Elections Dogged by Questions Over Who Will Take Part

Opposition supporters react to an announcement that the parliamentary elections set for July 21 will be pushed back, during an opposition rally to protest the start of campaigning, in Lome, Togo, July 6, 2013.
Opposition supporters react to an announcement that the parliamentary elections set for July 21 will be pushed back, during an opposition rally to protest the start of campaigning, in Lome, Togo, July 6, 2013.
The West African nation of Togo is gearing up for twice-delayed legislative elections planned for July 25. But while the international community has praised signs of rapprochement between the ruling and opposition parties, it remains to be seen whether everyone will participate.

Beginning last week, representatives from two major opposition coalitions and the ruling party sat down for talks over unresolved issues concerning Togo’s legislative vote. The talks were facilitated by Catholic Bishop Nicodeme Barrigah, and United States Ambassador Robert Whitehead was also present.

Major sticking points included the role of the opposition in the country’s electoral commission, as well as the continued detention of opposition candidates and supporters accused of involvement in January fires targeting markets in Lome and the northern city of Kara.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Interior Minister Gilbert Bawara announced that three opposition candidates detained over the fires had been released. He said this was just one of the concessions the government had made to ensure a successful vote.

“The government received the request from the Coalition to Save Togo asking for the release of three candidates who were still detained so they could participate fully in the campaign. And the prosecutor has now issued an order announcing their release," said Bawara.

Also Thursday, a joint statement issued by the United States, France, Germany, the United Nations and the European Union hailed progress made during the talks, which ended Tuesday. The statement said there was now “a good base” for credible, peaceful elections.

However, a U.S. Embassy official in Lome told VOA that there were still outstanding issues, including the composition of the electoral commission. The official said it was not clear whether the issues were serious enough to lead some opposition parties to boycott.
 
As a result of the talks, the election was pushed back four days, to July 25. The opposition parties have yet to issue formal statements saying definitively whether they will participate or not.

“The discussions are still ongoing. That’s why we were surprised when the government said this date had been agreed upon," said Jean-Pierre Fabre is the leader of the opposition National Alliance for Change. "It hasn’t been agreed upon by consensus. We consider it to be something that the government has imposed."

The legislative elections were originally expected to be held last October. But five months before, the government approved a new electoral code that the opposition said favored the ruling party. The timing of the code violated a rule imposed by the West African regional bloc ECOWAS banning changes to electoral laws less than six months before a vote.

After the opposition threatened to boycott, the vote was rescheduled for March of this year. But that date was never firm, and it was ultimately pushed back to this month.

At Thursday’s press conference, Interior Minister Bawara said further delays to the vote would be unacceptable.

“The campaign has already begun, and we already have certain parties, especially independent parties, that have begun campaigning, devoting their resources and means to this effort. These elections have not just been organized for the two main opposition coalitions," he said.

Togo has been ruled by the same family almost continuously since the late 1960s. President Faure Gnassingbe took power after the death of his father, Eyadema Gnassingbe, in 2005.

The mandate for the current legislature ended in October.

Modeste Messavussu contributed to this report from Lome, Togo

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid