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Ruling Party Wins Majority in Togo


Preliminary legislative election results in Togo show the long-time ruling party winning an absolute majority out of 81 seats. But the largest opposition party, the Union of Forces for Change, vows to dispute the early results, saying polling problems cheated them out of votes. Selah Hennessy reports from the VOA West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

Official results say the ruling Rally of the Togolese People has so far won 49 seats.

The main opposition, Union of Forces for Change, has 21. Another opposition party, the Action Committee for Renewal, has four.

Results for seven remaining seats have yet to be announced.

Esso Solitioki, the secretary for the ruling party, says this is a triumph for the Togolese people. He says they have shown their support for a strong and responsible party.

He says elected representatives will work towards reconciling all Togolese, and towards developing new projects that will set Togo on the path of reconstruction, after years of unrest and poverty.

But opposition parties say the ruling party must first confront serious errors in the election process.

Long-exiled Gilchrist Olympio, the son of Togo's first president, leads the opposition Union of Forces for Change. He says this election has no statistical value, because thousands of opposition votes were uncounted.

He says his party, which has boycotted elections for more than a decade, will organize peaceful marches to call attention to problems with the electoral process.

"From the actual electoral system I do not think it is too different from what we have known - the same level of fraud, the same level of wrong results being broadcast," he said.

But he says the election has seen some improvements on previous ones.

"The only positive thing we find is there has been no violence, there has been virtually no bloodshed, so from that point of view it has been interesting," he said.

Olympio says the electoral process in Togo still has a long way to go.

"Do not forget. The same people, the same family, the same structure has been in power for the last 40 years. And it is not very easy to tell a million-ton tanker to turn over night," he said.

International observers, including the European Union, have said the election was largely free and fair.

Togolese journalist Modeste Messavussu says reactions to the results have been mixed, but the streets of Togo's capital, Lome, are quiet.

Noel Aze says he is happy the ruling party won the majority of seats because they will give more power to Togo's president, Faure Gnassingbe.

"I feel happy because we want to help the party to get up the president to try and make the projects he wants to do in Togo because we know that is the one who can save us," he said.

But Eves Baco, a Union of Forces for Change supporter, says the ruling party has rushed claiming victory and is already showing signs of aggression.

"At present the soldiers are on the road, they say they are republicans - they do not have the right to send the soldiers on the main road to disturb the public," he says.

Turn-out for the election was high, with about 85 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot.

The ruling party was founded by former president Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled the country for 38 years. His son, current president Faure Gnassingbe, took power after elections in 2005.

Aid to Togo has been limited since 1993 due to the country's poor political record. The European Union has said it will restore full aid to the country if the elections are deemed free and fair.