DAKAR, SENEGAL— The small West African nation of Togo held legislative elections on Thursday, nine months after they were originally scheduled. Although the vote was calm, opposition leaders expressed concern about a number of procedural problems.
Togo has been ruled by the same family for more than four decades. Eyadema Gnassingbe came to power in 1967, and his son, Faure Gnassingbe, followed suit when Eyadema died in 2005, winning a flawed and violent election that year and a more credible re-election in 2010.
When the last legislative elections were held in 2007, the ruling party claimed 60 percent of the seats.
But there have been signs in recent years that frustration with the party is mounting, with notably large scale protests against government policies and alleged abuses by the security forces.
Around 1,200 candidates contested 91 seats on Thursday, and around 3 million of Togo’s 6 million people were eligible to vote, according to the electoral commission.
Although many voters lined up at polling stations ahead of the 7 a.m. start time, some centers were missing key materials, including ballot papers. The Goree Institute, a Dakar-based NGO that is running a monitoring mission in Togo, said voting was delayed by approximately one hour at about one-third of the stations.
Jean-Pierre Fabre is leader of the National Alliance for Change, an opposition coalition. He expressed concern about the procedural problems.
“I made a tour of polling stations and saw a lot of problems, a lot of stations missing materials. In reality, there was a lot of disorder,” said Fabre.
Observers said the vote was free of violence, something that had been a concern in the wake of tense protests over how the election would be conducted. Originally scheduled for last October, the vote was pushed back twice at the opposition’s urging.
Turnout figures are not yet clear. Although large crowds showed up to polling stations in Lome, the Goree Institute said by early Thursday afternoon that the turnout rate was around 30 percent. Many stations were forced to stay open late because of the morning’s delays.
Modeste Messavussu contributed to this report from Lome, Togo.