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Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 17:33 GMT 18:33 UK
Boost for Africa's veteran leader
Gilchrist Olympio
Olympio has been in exile and fears for his safety

Togo's electoral commission has rejected the presidential candidacy of opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio.

He had been nominated by his Union for Forces for Change (UFC) party to contest the 1 June election against Africa's longest serving president, Gnassingbe Eyadema.

Mr Eyadema has ruled Togo since 1967 and last year the ruling party-dominated parliament changed the constitution to allow him to run again.

Under Togo's recently passed electoral law, presidential candidates must provide proof that they have resided in Togo for the year preceding the election.

Mr Olympio only returned from exile in France on Saturday and the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) has written to him, saying that his application was "incomplete".

He was also unable to submit the required tax certificate.

Little faith

There has been no public announcement but the state-run newspaper published a list of candidates on Friday, which did not contain Mr Olympio's name.

The opposition leader told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that he would not call for mass protests by his supporters.

President Eyadema of Togo
Eyadema has been president for 36 years

He said he would appeal to the constitutional court but had little faith that they would overturn the Ceni decision.

Mr Olympio is the son of Togo's first president, Sylvanus Olympio, who was assassinated in 1963.

In 1992 Mr Olympio returned to the country, but his campaign motorcade came under fire which left five people in his entourage dead and 17 others including himself injured.

The opposition leader claimed he won the 1998 elections but said the results had been rigged to allow Mr Eyadema to remain in power - a view supported by many foreign observers.

Mr Eyadema, 66, dominates the political landscape in Togo and rules with an iron fist, prompting sharp criticism of his human rights record from political opponents and human rights groups.

The European Union and other western countries suspended their cooperation with Togo after disputed elections in 1993.

Gilchrist Olympio speaking on Focus on Africa
"There could be political action. The country wants change."

Exile to run in Togo poll
13 Mar 03  |  Africa
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30 Dec 02  |  Africa
Ruling party wins Togo election
30 Oct 02  |  Africa
Togo poll without opposition
25 Oct 02  |  Africa

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