Election Rigging Concerns as Togo Prepares to Vote for a New President

President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo

On Thursday, the West African country of Togo will go to the polls to choose a new President against a history of violence in earlier elections and opposition allegations that the current President Faure Gnassingbe may make attempts to rig the outcome. Thousands of people died in the post-election violence after the 2005 presidential poll and voting this time comes as the region is shaken by a coup in Niger, street riots over delayed Ivory Coast polls and instability in Guinea.

In a press conference on Wednesday, the head of Togo’s electoral commission Taffa Taboin said “We must all keep in mind that our chosen candidate may or may not be the one chosen by the majority,” “We are committed to an election that is just, fair, transparent and without violence that will allow Togo to take its place among modern democracies.”  The elections will be monitored by West African and European Union observers across the country. Togo is a small piece of land between Ghana and Benin and is home to 6.6 million people. There are  3.3 million registered voters in the country.

President Gnassingbe is the candidate of the ruling Togolese People’s Rally (RPT). He took power in 2005 after the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled the country for 38 years. His 2005 electoral victory set off protests in which the military killed between 400 and 500 people, according to U.N. estimates, triggering a refugee crisis in Ghana and Benin. But parliamentary elections two years later were peaceful, raising hopes of an end to Togo’s long history of political violence and leading to the restoration of foreign aid.

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