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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Togo opposition claims 'irregularities' in poll

Campaign poster of opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre in Lome
The opposition expects to do well in the capital Lome

The main opposition party in Togo has claimed widespread irregularities in the country's presidential election.

People in Togo voted on Thursday to chose a new head of state - five years after hundreds died following the last, disputed election.

President Faure Gnassingbe is running for a second term, and his main challenger is Jean Pierre Fabre of the Union of Forces for Change (UFC).

All parties have been stressing the need for a peaceful poll.

The UFC has pointed to several problems with the voting that it says could lead to fraud.

The ballot papers did not have serial numbers, only the stubs did, says the BBC's Caspar Leighton in Lome.

The numberless ballot papers can be used to stuff ballot boxes from elsewhere, the UFC says.

"The electoral code has not been respected. Nothing has been done today to ensure the transparency of this vote," the UFC head of communications Eric Dupuy told the BBC.

More than 500 observers from the African Union, the West African group Ecowas and the European Union are monitoring the vote.

An election observer in Lome told the BBC the process so far was "slow but peaceful".

Correspondents say President Gnassingbe is hoping to be re-elected in circumstances that will win the approval that was so lacking at the last election.

'No chances'

The 2005 vote happened soon after the military had installed him in power on the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema.

The main opposition party, the UFC, believes it won the last election.

Poster of President Faure Gnassingbe in Lome
President Gnassingbe was installed by the military before the 2005 vote

Hundreds died in ensuing protests. Campaigning this time around was peaceful and at times strayed into good-natured rivalry.

But the authorities took no chances and mixed the message of harmony with the presence of a 6,000-strong election security force.

The structures in place for this election pointed to a desire to be seen to be doing the right thing.

For the first time there was an independent electoral commission.

The government website was being more than just a government mouthpiece and talked in fair terms about the opposition campaigns.

The electoral commissioner said election results should be ready after 72 hours. But there is a lack of clarity about how long the counting will actually take, our correspondent says.


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