Polls end

15/10/2007
Polls end

Polls ended officially on Sunday in the West African state of Togo on Sunday where historic parliamentary elections saw the opposition participate fully for the first time in 20 years.

Some three million people on the voters' register were eligible to cast their votes to choose 81 parliamentarians from 2,150 candidates.There was high turnout of voters with a major challenge being the late arrival of ballot papers.

Togo's president Faure Gnassingbe cast his vote and declared that the poll would be peaceful, while veteran opposition leader, Gilchrist Olympio who was said to be very sick after exhaustive campaign, voted by proxy.

The vote, the first since Togo's strongman, Gnassingbe Eyadema died suddenly in January 2005 and was replaced by his son, Faure in disputed elections after the population protested his installation as president with the backing of the military, is expected to serve as a green light to the European Union to resume normal ties.

Togo's politics had been characterised by the stifling of opposition parties, human rights abuses and bloody crackdowns that had seen hundreds killed, detained and forced into exile, compelling the European Union, the country's biggest partner, to suspend aid since 1993.

The EU froze assistance to Togo in 1993 after another in a series of bloody crackdowns on the opposition that saw scores killed and others arrested.

There were more than 3,000 locally trained election observers and hundreds more from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), EU, Francophonie community and African Union.

Security was tight, with a special force of 6,000 election police, made up of gendermes and police, agreed by all the parties to eliminate the military from the election, deployed throughout the country.

ECOWAS also provided 100 military observers deployed throughout the country. Togo has closed its land borders for the election.

Faure easily won the presidential vote in 2005 on the ticket of the ruling party, but it is yet to be seen whether the party can maintain its domination of parliament in Sunday's election.

 

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