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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 April, 2005, 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
Huge crowds greet Togolese exile
Opposition supporters on the streets of the capital Lome
Togolese opposition supporters have stuck by Gilchrist Olympio
Togo's exiled opposition leader has received a rapturous reception on a visit to the country's capital, Lome, ahead of presidential elections.

Gilchrist Olympio, who has lived in exile since an assassination attempt in 1992, is ineligible for this election.

He confirmed that his deputy, Bob Akitani, would stand in the poll, due to take place next Sunday.

Current ruler Faure Gnassingbe took power when his father died and called elections under international pressure.

Opposition parties have criticised the hastily-arranged presidential poll, alleging that the vote has been organised too quickly and is vulnerable to vote-rigging.

Charismatic

But Mr Olympio, the son of Togo's first president, who was murdered in a military coup, lent the process qualified support.

Gilchrist Olympio (left) with UFC deputy Bob Akitani (centre) and party member Patrick Lawson (right)
Opposition leaders have not joined calls to delay the election
"Conditions are difficult but we are going to participate. For the moment we are not calling a boycott unless things get worse during the week," he said.

Mr Olympio entered Togo from Ghana, where he has a home, and was cheered by supporters as he travelled along the road from the border.

Many wore yellow t-shirts and waved palm branches, the traditional symbol of support for Mr Olympio's Union of Forces for Change (UFC) party.

The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in Lome says Gilchrist Olympio is still clearly an iconic figure, completely overshadowing his less charismatic deputy.

Aides refused to say whether, if elected, Mr Akitani planned to stand aside in favour of Mr Olympio.

They said Togolese would be voting less for any particular candidate than to get rid of the Gnassingbe family, who have been in power in Togo for the past 38 years, our correspondent reports.


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