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Togolese Hope for More EU Aid Following Elections

Legislative elections in Togo this week were deemed largely free and fair by international observers, and now many in the country are hoping for a full restoration of aid from the European Union. Aid was cut in 1993 because of concerns the government had become too authoritarian. Kari Barber reports from our West Africa bureau in Dakar that analysts say while a return to full funding looks likely, international bodies will still need to keep a close eye on the Togolese government's commitment to democracy.

European Union officials say they will consider Sunday's election when they determine whether to restore full funding to Togo which would likely mean more than $50 million a year to the small West African nation.

Spokesman Claude Bammante is from the ruling Rally of the Togolese People party. He says the party won a majority of seats according to provisional results in the election in which turnout was at least 85 percent.

Now with the election over and final results expected in the coming days, Bammante says Togolese are eager to see what the European Union will do about aid.

Under the rule of Gnassingbe Eyadema, father of current President Faure Gnassingbe, aid was cut to Togo over human rights violations and political repression. Aid was partially restored in 2004 with a commitment from the government to work toward democracy.

In contrast to past elections often marred by boycotts, apparent cheating and violence, Sunday's vote saw no significant violence and good participation of opposition parties.

Analyst Kissy Agyeman of the London-based research group Global Insight says the lack of aid has greatly impaired development in Togo, and she expects a full restoration of funding. But, she says, international bodies will need to make sure the election was not just a show by the Togolese government to win back favor of the EU, but instead represents a true break from authoritarian rule of the past.

"I think the international community will be very mindful to ensure that this is not just a one-off thing and it is not just a means for Togo to get the funds. So I think there will be robust follow up," she noted.

Agyeman says to prevent violence from flaring up the ruling party will need to make efforts to ease the nation's rigidly divided political atmosphere.

"There should be real follow up of the promises that RPT, the ruling party, has made in terms of ensuring that there is a more inclusive approach and that there will be continued reforms to the political system," she added.

Hundreds were killed and thousands displaced by violence surrounding the 2005 presidential election in which President Gnassingbe was elected to power.

Opposition parties have complained of fraud in Sunday's poll, but Agyeman says unless significant evidence of cheating is found, their complaints are not likely to affect the outcome of the election or the nation's chances of getting full aid.