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Togo’s Gnassingbe poised to extend family’s half-century in power

© Patrick Kovarik, AFP | Between them, Faure Gnassingbe and his late father have ruled Togo for the past 48 years

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2015-04-27

Togo's incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe appeared set for a third term after a weekend election, with partial results issued on Monday giving him a strong lead.

A victory in Saturday's vote -- described by regional monitors as "free and transparent" overall -- would extend his family's rule of almost 50 years over the tiny west African nation.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said Gnassingbe had won 62 percent of the vote, far ahead of his nearest rival Jean-Pierre Fabre, who took 32 percent with about 12 percent of ballots counted.

Up to around 55 percent of the country's 3.5 million voters turned out on Saturday, according to the CENI, which has five days to announce the final outcome.

Turnout was significantly lower than in 2010, when nearly two thirds of registered voters took part.

Experts had said the narrow chance of a loss for Gnassingbe would depend on a massive voter turnout, but civil society groups said participation rates were "very weak".

The early results came from 934 of a total of 8,994 polling stations in six regions of the country, a long strip of land that lies between Ghana and Benin, the commission said.

"We wanted to give you a more complete message," CENI head Taffa Tabiou told journalists after a night of counting.

"Unfortunately, in the current state of play, we haven't been able to make much progress."

Gnassingbe has been in power since the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, in 2005, winning contested elections that year and five years later.

His father came to power in 1967, and ruled the country with an iron fist. When he died in February 2005, the army put his son in power, causing an outcry. Faure Gnassingbe resigned and then won a hastily organised election.

Analysts say divisions within the opposition five-party coalition Combat for Political Change (CAP 2015) combined with the benefits of incumbency made Fabre's prospects of victory very dim.

'Peaceful atmosphere'

The head of the regional ECOWAS election observation mission, which sent 100 observers to monitor the polls nationwide, said there had been no major incident "likely to affect the integrity of the voting process".

"Overall, the election of 25 April, 2015 was free, transparent and organised in an acceptable manner," the west African economic bloc's Amos Sawyer told reporters.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the smooth vote and urged "all political leaders and segments of society to continue to maintain the peaceful atmosphere that has prevailed throughout the electoral process", his spokesman said in a statement.

Few of the roughly seven million people in the former French trust territory, which was inherited from German rule after World War I, have felt the benefit of recent economic growth.

According to the government, unemployment is rife at 29 percent.

While Lome is considered an opposition stronghold, many in the countryside would rather keep Gnassingbe in power than vote for an opposition they mistrust.

Currently there are no limits to the number of times a president can stand for re-election. The opposition has called for a two-term limit.

(AFP)

Date created : 2015-04-27

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