afrol News, 8 March - The early announcement of the election victory of President Faure Gnassingbé and the opposition's insistency the election was stolen raise fears of a new wave of violence in Togo. Protesters in Lomé have been met with tear gas.
The Togolese election commission already on Saturday - several days before expected - announced that provisional results of Thursday's ballot showed the incumbent would be re-elected. More than 60 percent of Togolese voters had placed their trust in Mr Gnassingbé; the second generation of a dynasty ruling Togo with unrestricted powers during 40 years.
At that time, the leading Union of Forces for Change (UFC) opposition party had already declared its candidate Jean-Pierre Fabre as winner. Numbers complied by their election observers had shown Mr Fabre had obtained at least 60 percent of the votes, the UFC claimed.
During the weekend, the election commission's announcement therefore caused widespread uproar among the Togolese opposition, claiming the provisional results were fraudulent. Demonstrators gathering in Togo's capital Lomé on Saturday filled the main square, but were soon met by riot police, breaking up the protests with tear gas and barricades.
The UFC opposition has historic reasons to be sceptical towards the election commission's announcement. During the ruling dynasty, none of the elections organised were free or fair. At each poll, gross manipulation was revealed, the opposition was harassed and violence against the UFC caused large numbers of deaths and refugees.
But the UFC has also been able to push through a slow democratisation process in Togo, achieving much help of the European Union (EU). The EU froze all cooperation with Togo, demanding respect for human rights and democratic institutions. At these polls, many hoped, reform had come far enough to give the UFC a realistic chance of winning the vote.
But already during the voting process, the opposition has protested against fraud attempts. Also EU election observers were sceptical regarding the transparency of the counting process, where local polling stations were prohibited from announcing results. Further, there were concerns that the armed forces - recruited among Gnassingbé supporters in northern Togo - were able to vote twice; once in the military poll on 1 March and later in the general poll on 4 March.
The UFC has already announced it will challenge the election results in Togo's constitutional court within the one-week deadline existing.
But there is so far little evidence that the elections have been massively fraudulent and that the incumbent President did not win the vote. The problem is - if Mr Gnassingbé really won the poll - that the institutions claiming his victory have no credibility due to decades of fraud.
There are therefore widespread fears that post-electoral violence again may break out in Togo. Five years ago, as the UFC claimed to have proof of election rigging, peaceful opposition protests led to a massive attack by the army and the ruling party on opposition strongholds. More than 400 persons were killed and thousands had to flee the country.
In the increasingly polarised situation evolving in Togo, even minor incidents could incite a new wave of violence, observers fear.
Meanwhile, the Togolese government is preparing to consolidate its announced victory in several ways. In central Lomé, at strategic places and outside UFC headquarters, barricades are already in place to stop demonstrators and to control their movements. Armed forces are surrounding UFC headquarters, hindering the opposition from organising marches.
Second, propagation of President Gnassingbé's victory is running on top gear. Media - most of which are state-controlled - are making it clear Mr Fabre was thoroughly defeated, by democratic means of course.
Media were also in a rush to emphasise foreign recognition of the incumbent's victory even before results were official. State media today headline Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré's "congratulation of Faure for his re-election" and the "brilliant and democratic" exercise, making sure to mention the unchallenged Burkinabe leader is the "mediator of the inter-Togolese dialogue."
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