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Togo Opposition Threatens to Disrupt Legislative Election

The political opposition In Togo is threatening demonstrations in the last week of campaigning before the October 14 legislative election. Opposition leaders say they are worried about election fraud from the ruling party, which has been in power for most of the past four decades. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar.

The Secretary General of the Union of Forces for Change, Jean Pierre Fabre, says he will call for opposition supporters to demonstrate in two days if the National Electoral Commission does not agree to his party's request.

The party has asked that the heads of each polling station sign all ballots cast next Sunday.

Fabre says there is a problem because the ruling party, the Rally for the Togolese People, pulled out of an agreement to require these signatures.

The opposition says the signatures are needed to prevent fraud and track ballots back to their voting stations.

But ruling party spokesman, Claude Bammante, says the request can lead to more fraud.

Bammante says he thinks the opposition wants to commit fraud through the signatures. He says ballots will be invalidated if the right people from the station do not sign, or if people fake signatures. He says this requirement is dangerous because it can lead to vote tampering.

Recent elections in Togo have been marred by accusations of widespread fraud, including ballot stealing by security forces allied with the ruling party.

Togo's president, Faure Gnassingbe, was voted into power in a contested 2005 election that ended in violent security crackdowns, sending tens of thousands fleeing to neighboring countries.

Chris Fomunyoh with the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs says Togo's already twice-delayed legislative election is critical for it to overcome a violent voting history.

"We are all going to be watching to see whether the Togolese government and the people of Togo will use this opportunity to begin to shred the image that has been associated with this country for a very long time and to see whether this election will help put Togo on a positive track," said Fomunyoh.

Togo has deployed its largest security force before an election, which will be monitored by more than 100 military observers from the Economic Community of West African States.

More than 3,000 international election monitors are expected to oversee about three million voters. Newly-arrived members from the European Union team will travel to their posts Tuesday.

The European Union has said it will fully restore aid, partially cut off since 1993, if the country conducts a fair and transparent election.

More than 2,000 candidates from 32 parties are competing next Sunday for 81 legislative positions.