A top official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says despite challenges, the regional bloc expects Togo’s election, scheduled to begin Thursday, to be free and fair.
Abdel-Fatau-Musah said ECOWAS is fielding the largest electoral observer mission in the sub-region’s history to monitor Thursday’s vote.
He also said ECOWAS is concerned with the campaign rhetoric of some of the opposition ahead of today’s vote.
“This election is a challenge in that it is the passing of a generation. (Gnassingbé) Eyadéma (former Togo’s longtime leader) is already no more, but the divisions in the country remain. There are fears of violence after the announcement of the results after (Today’s) election,” he said.
Togo’s security agencies voted Monday in a special ballot ahead of Thursday’s election, since they would be required to provide electoral security during the vote.
Musah said opposition parties participating in the election have expressed concerns about the vote.
“The opposition parties are contesting the voters register. They are not sure how results are going to be transmitted from the periphery to the center. And they feel there could be ballot stuffing, manipulation of results, and all that,” Musah said.
Political observers express hope that Togo’s independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) will conduct a credible election despite brewing tensions.
The electoral commission comprises five representatives of the ruling Rally of the Togolese People (RPT), five from the opposition, another three members from the opposition in parliament, three members from the civil society, and one member from the administration.
Musah said there is need for the leaders to focus on Togo’s future.
“There is challenge also of moving Togo beyond the present crisis, which the elections offer a good chance to move beyond the acrimonious path. And actually go into an era of real reform of the security sector of institutions and of leveling the political field in the country,” Musah said.
Togo’s media reports that six opposition presidential candidates will challenge incumbent President Faure Gnassingbé in Thursday’s vote.
Some of the candidates include the main opposition party’s Jean-Pierre Fabre of the Union of Forces for Change (UFC), Yawovi Agboyibo of the Action Committee for Renewal (CAR), Messan Agbeyome Kodjo from the Organization for the Building of a United Togo (OBUTS), Nicolas Lawson of the Party for Renewal and Redemption (PRR), and Brigitte Kafui Adjamagbo-Johnson from the Democratic Convention of African Peoples (CDPA opposition).
Musah said the regional bloc is helping Togo’s security agencies to provide adequate security during the vote.
“ECOWAS has deployed about 150 security personnel made up of police, gendarmerie and also the military to assist the Togolese security agencies in maintaining electoral security,” Musah said.
He also said ECOWAS is working closely with the Independent electoral commission (CENI) to ensure a fair vote that would meet international standards.