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Friday, 25 October, 2002, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Togo poll without opposition
The Togolese are voting on Sunday to elect a new parliament, but the main opposition parties are not taking part in the poll, which they have described as an "electoral farce".


We have nothing to do with these elections which have been organised by magistrates

Jean-Pierre Fabre, UFC secretary general
They are protesting against the appointment of seven magistrates to monitor the election, instead of the independent national electoral committee promised by the government three years ago.

With the opposition out of the polls, the BBC's Servais Koumako in Lome says Togo has little chance of boosting its standing with donors and recovering from its economic crisis.

The European Union has said it will resume its cooperation with Togo only if multiparty elections take place.

The EU and other western countries suspended their cooperation with Togo in 1993, after many people died in political and social unrest in the early 1990s.

Lacklustre

The resumption of cooperation with the EU, the fight against poverty and child trafficking, and job creation have been the main themes of the electoral campaign.

Our correspondent says the campaign has been lacklustre in the capital, where the opposition enjoys most of its support.

UFC leader Gilchrist Olympio (picture: Humanrightsde)
Mr Olympio has lived in Ghana since an attempt on his life 10 years ago

A total of 126 candidates - 118 from 15 parties and eight independent candidates - will be competing for 81 seats.

During the last parliamentary elections three years ago, President Gnassingbe Eyadema's Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) won 79 of the seats.

The RPT is the only party to field a candidate in all constituencies.

Mr Eyadema, who came to power in a coup in 1967, is Africa's longest-lasting ruler.

He won presidential elections in 1993 and 1998, but the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity have reported widespread human rights abuses.

During and after the 1998 elections, Amnesty International accused the Togolese authorities of dumping hundreds of bodies into the sea.

Voting cards

The four parties boycotting the poll have urged the 2.9 million voters not to withdraw their voting documents and to stay at home on polling day.

"We have nothing to do with these elections which have been organised by magistrates," Jean-Pierre Fabre, the secretary general of the main opposition party, the Union of Forces for Change (UFC), was quoted as saying by the French news agency, AFP.

Boycotting parties
Gilchrist Olympio's UFC
Edem Kodjo's CPP
Yawovi Agboyibo's Front
Zarifou Ayeva's PDR

But a pro-government weekly, La Releve Consciente, reported on Tuesday that 80% of voters' cards had been withdrawn from registration centres.

A party belonging to the self-styled "constructive opposition" has accused the traditional opposition of being out of touch.

"The leaders of the traditional opposition have run out of new ideas, and they must bow out," Harry Olympio, of the Rally to Support Democracy and Development (RSDD), said.

A weekly newspaper which supports the presidential camp, Le Clairon, said on Thursday that the elections would "toll the bell" for the opposition.

The paper added that the real deadline for Togo was next year's presidential election.

President Eyadema has said he will not stand again.

Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema
Mr Eyadema is the only president most Togolese have known

International observers from the United States, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) are expected to monitor Sunday's poll, Interior Minister Sizing Akawilu Walla has said.

The campaign, which ends on Friday, has been unusually quiet, but the Interior Ministry has set up a mixed security force to "ensure the safety of Togo's citizens" before, during and after the poll.

The ministry has also announced that the country's borders would be closed from Saturday morning until Monday morning.

See also:

15 Nov 01 | Business
21 Jul 99 | Africa
12 Jul 00 | Africa
12 Jul 02 | Country profiles
12 Jul 02 | Africa
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