Tuesday, 3 June 2003

Lome (Fides Service) – There is calm charged with tension in Lome, the capital of Togo since presidential elections held on June 1. There are as yet no final results but outgoing president Gnassingbe Eyadema appears to be in the lead with circa 60% of the votes counted so far (40% of the ballots). The eligible voters were 3 .2 million (out of a population of 4.9) distributed in 5,296 polling stations. Present also 187 monitors to guarantee fair elections.
Local sources contacted by Fides Service say that a number of people were killed in clashes in villages around the capital between security forces and opposition to the President. “The situation in small centres is still confused and it is difficult for the moment to have precise information about the number of dead” local sources tell Fides, asking to remain unnamed for reasons of safety. “In Lome people area afraid, if they can they choose to stay at home or anyhow to limit their moments for fear of violent demonstrations which may explode any moment”.
The opposition questions the regularity of the vote, also because the main rival candidate to Eyadema, Gilchrist Olympo, head of the Union of Forces for Change UFC was excluded from the electoral competition. The Independent National Electoral Commission excluded Olympo on the grounds that he failed to present a certificate of residence in Togo for at least 12 months prior to the elections and a fiscal income in the country. Olympo was exiled for a long time and returned at last to Togo on 27 April this year, only to be forced to leave the country once again.
From his exile in Paris, Olympo has announced the victory of his candidate Emmanuel Borb Akitani with 75% of the votes. Former president of the national assembly Maurice Dahuku Pere has also proclaimed himself the winner, accusing the government of electoral fraud.
Togo has been governed since 1967 by Gnassingbe Eyadema who for more than 30 years imposed a one party regime, with the Group of the Togo People RPT. In the early 1990s, also because of international pressure, there was a partial opening to democracy with first multi-party elections in 1993. The opposition accuses Eyadema of fraud because he has always been re-elected since 1993.
In 2001 Eyadema announced he would retire from politics before 2003, in keeping with the Constitution which allows only two presidential mandates. But on 30 December 2002 parliament, dominated by the RPT, changed the rules allowing Eyadema to stand for presidency for the third time.
In March the Catholic Bishops of Togo issued a statement calling of free and democratic elections (see Fides 20 May 2003). LM (Fides Service 3/6/2003 EM lines 9 Words: 57)