News / Africa

Togo's Opposition Leader: Police Seize Vote Fraud Evidence

Togo's opposition leader claims security forces have seized materials his party intended to use to challenge the results of the country's presidential election. Riot police blocked a march to protest official election returns indicating the president's re-election.

Hundreds of demonstrators clashed with riot police near the Lome headquarters of the opposition Union of Forces for Change party.

Police fired tear-gas to break up the protest and prevented party candidate Jean-Pierre Fabre from meeting up with supporters for a demonstration against results that indicate President Faure Gnassingbe won last Thursday's vote.

Fabre says military police entered party headquarters and searched facilities that opposition supporters are using to analyze official electoral results to prepare a legal challenge that he says will show that he won the vote. Fabre says gendarmes removed computers and arrested party members. He denounced what he called this "repressive operation" and said such harassment can not go on.

Riot police dispersed protesters with tear-gas Sunday following the electoral commission's declaration that President Gnassingbe won just over 60 percent of the vote. The commission says Fabre won more than one-third of the vote and former prime minister Yawovi Agboyibo finished third with less than three percent of ballots cast.

The opposition has eight days to convince Togo's constitutional court that President Gnassingbe's re-election was illegal. Fabre claims to have won more than 70 percent of the vote, despite what he says was electoral fraud that included stuffed ballot boxes and the inflation of ruling-party vote totals reported to the electoral commission.

Fabre says Togo's ruling party is mistaken if it thinks the opposition will give in to intimidation. He says his party and its opposition allies will keep going until he is declared the winner.

Regional electoral observers 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 meant to transmit returns from polling stations.

The hope now is resolving this dispute peacefully to prevent the violence that followed Togo's 2005 vote, which the United Nations says killed more than 400 people and sent thousands of refugees into Ghana and Benin.

President Gnassingbe won that vote following the death of his father, Gnassignbe Eyadema, who ruled Togo for more than 38 years.

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