afrol News, 5 November - For the first time, Togolese elections were conducted in a free and fair way without major incidents. Still, this had not meant a return to democracy, Togo's main potential donor, the European Union (EU) holds, agreeing with the opposition that had boycotted the poll.
According to a statement issued by the European Union today, the EU had "followed the conduct of the parliamentary elections in Togo on 27 October with concern." Independent election observers concluded the poll "went off without incident."
Although there had not been reported any fraud, "the conditions laid down in the Lomé Framework Agreement were not observed during the run-up to the elections and the opposition parties which signed up to the Agreement did not take part," the EU notes.
The 1993 elections and other preceding fraudulent polls had made the EU to suspend all aid to the increasingly repressive Togolese regime. Following the violent 1998 presidential elections, the EU and African neighbours demanded a political reconciliation and democratic elections in Togo to normalise relationships and reopen EU funds.
Negotiations between the government and the opposition first were constructive and led to an agreement on how to organise legislative elections. A key to the agreement was equal opposition participation in the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Earlier this year, however, the government broke with the agreement and dissolved the commission, replacing it with magistrates of it own choice. Later on, the electoral code was changed, giving the biggest party - assumingly the ruling RPT - far greater chances of winning a parliamentary majority. The opposition reacted with a total withdrawal from the reconciliation process and a boycott of the October poll.
- This being the case, the EU does not believe that the elections will further dialogue within the country, today's statement says. "The fact that the conditions under which the poll was held lacked credibility will not help to make progress towards solving the political crisis in Togo," the EU adds.
On this background, the EU advised the Togolese authorities and all the opposition parties "to ensure that the next elections enable all shades of political opinion to have their say and to participate with the greatest possible transparency and independence."
The real democracy test is coming up next year already. Then, the more important presidential elections are to be held, and President Gnassingbé Eyadema - who came to power in a coup in 1967 - has stated he will not stand for re-election.
The EU is now not expected to release financial aid for Togo before the successful organisation of the 2003 presidential poll. But before that, the government and the opposition will have to agree on a new election system and embark on reconciliation. At the moment, there is little political will to succeed on that in both camps.
Sources: Based on EU and afrol archives