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Last Updated: Monday, 25 April, 2005, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Street battles follow Togo poll
Opposition supporters with burning tyre
The opposition allege fraud in this, and previous, polls
Police in Togo have fired tear gas at stone-throwing opposition supporters, who claim Sunday's presidential election is being rigged.

There were also clashes on Sunday and three bodies were seen by diplomats.

In a bid to calm tensions, leading Togolese politicians are meeting Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Ruling party candidate Faure Gnassingbe and opposition party leader Gilchrist Olympio - who was barred from standing - have gone to Abuja for the talks.

Apart from the clashes, most parts of the capital, Lome, are reported to be deserted.

No official results have yet been reported.

Complaints

Mr Obasanjo was one of the African leaders who put strong pressure on Togo to hold the elections after the death of long-time leader Gnassingbe Eyadema in February.

The army had installed Mr Eyadema's son, Mr Faure, as leader.

Togo voter

United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan commended the sense of responsibility demonstrated by Togo's leaders and people.

Three men contested the election: Mr Faure, for the governing party, and two opposition candidates, Bob Akitani and Harry Olympio.

The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in Lome says there is a lot of uncertainty about what is happening.

She says all the parties have complained about incidents after the close of polls. The ruling RPT says that its party workers were chased and beaten up in Lome and prevented from watching the count.

In the Lome suburb of Bagida and in Atakpame, some way to the north, they say their local party leaders' homes and cars were attacked and set on fire.

Vote

Meanwhile the opposition are reporting that groups of armed men raided polling stations in areas where their support is traditionally strong and destroyed or took away the ballot boxes.

Many of the most serious injuries are reported to have taken place when opposition activists and local residents tried to prevent the boxes being taken.

Opposition candidate Emmanuel Bob Akitani (L) and Faure Gnassingbe
Whoever wins, Togo will not be the same, analysts say
Mr Akitani alleged widespread voting fraud, in remarks to the AFP news agency.

"The stuffing of ballot boxes is occurring on a large scale and we haven't heard of a single polling station where everything is going well," he said.

Under the Togolese system, party representatives are allowed to be present at the count which takes place at the polling station and members of the general public are allowed to watch through open doors and windows to make the whole system transparent.

The election result will be announced by Togo's electoral commission but final results are not expected for several days.

At least seven people were reportedly killed in violence in the run-up to the election.

Less than three days before the vote, Togo's interior minister was sacked after warning of a possible bloodbath and urging the acting president to call off the ballot.

He has sought refuge in the German embassy in Lome.

The US has said the international community will be scrutinising Togo's balloting and vote-counting process.

For most of the time since independence, Togo has been under either military dictatorship or one-party rule and both the most recent elections have been marred by allegations that the ruling party cheated to keep itself in power.




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