LOME/DAKAR - Vote counting is underway in Togo following Saturday's presidential election, which was expected to see President Faure Gnassingbe remain in power.
The president was running for a third five-year term. He assumed office in 2005 upon the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled the former French colony for 38 years.
Faure Gnassingbe cast his ballot in the morning in the capital, Lome, where voters started lining up as early as 5 a.m.
“People are voting their convictions today,” said one voter. “You just have to look around the country to see how urgent these elections are. This vote comes down to whether or not you approve of how things are.”
Opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre, who also ran for president in the last election, was expected to come in second in the single-round presidential poll.
Casting his ballot in Lome, Fabre said this act of voting was crucial because from this could come change to the political system, change he said would be a clean break from how things have been done for the past 50 years.
Observers put Saturday's turnout at about 40 percent.
Rights groups have criticized Togo for using violence against protesters.
Hundreds of election observers descended on Togo to monitor the election. Some 3.5 million people were registered to vote, representing half of Togo's population.
The opposition contested results of the two previous presidential elections in 2005 and 2010, citing fraud and intimidation. Both times, there were violent protests. This election had to be pushed back 10 days amid a dispute over the voter registry.
Further issues arose when the opposition candidates said they would not accept results tallied with a new computer system. A compromise was reached just hours before polls opened — that electronically tabulated results would be verified with signed hard copies from the polling stations.
Chief observer for regional bloc ECOWAS, Amos Sawyer, told VOA that the voting appeared calm and organized Saturday despite “minor challenges,” like some voters having trouble finding their names on lists at polling units.
The electoral commission could start releasing partial results as early as Sunday.
Messavussu reported from Lome, Look from Dakar.