Togo's election commission on Saturday declared the son of the country's late dictator winner of the presidential race, extending the family's rule into a fifth decade in a deep blow to Togo's opposition, which vowed to take to the streets in protest. Provisional results indicate President Faure Gnassingbe won 1.2 million votes, representing 60.9 per cent of the roughly 2 million votes cast in the tiny country, said Issifou Tabio, the head of the election body.
Opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre, who had earlier accused the ruling party of rigging the election, received 692,584 votes, or 33.9 per cent.
As results were broadcast district by district and it became clear that the opposition had lost and Gnassingbe would get a second term, Fabre led a group of around 200 protesters to a square in downtown Lome, making good on a promise to take to the streets if the ruling party did not cede. Security forces fired tear gas, forcing the group to disperse, said witnesses and a police spokesman.
The contentious election is only the second since the death of Eyadema Gnassingbe, who grabbed power in a 1967 coup and ruled for 43 years, only for his son to seize power upon the dictator's death in 2005. The younger Gnassinge went on to win elections that same year that were widely viewed as rigged.
Pro-Gnassingbe soldiers openly intimidated voters at polling stations and in several instances opened fire with live ammunition before stealing the ballot box, according to a report by Amnesty International.
Although the opposition has claimed that this election was rigged, international observers said earlier they have not seen overt evidence of fraud. But they say there is mounting evidence that the ruling party tried to buy off voters.
During campaign rallies, opposition supporters chanted "We were not paid to be here", a jab at Gnassingbe who they accuse of handing out cash and bags of rice to supporters. Election monitors from the European Union's observation mission were present in at least four different regions of the country when members of the ruling party handed out rice at a cost three to four times less than at the market, according to the mission's preliminary report released Saturday. The exponentially cheaper rice has been nicknamed "Faure Rice."
"You have villages which still do not have potable water," says Claudine Ahianyo-Kpondzo, who heads the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding, one of several civil society groups that have been monitoring the election. "If Candidate X goes to this village and gives them a little food and a little water, of course that is going to weigh on their conscience when they go to vote," she said.