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Togo - Political Parties

Togo boasts a record number of political parties. There are heavyweights like UNIR (in power) or opponents of the UFC of the ANC, the CAR or the CDPA. Then there is a whole series of small parties with unlikely influence and finally those that are reborn for a few months on the occasion of electoral deadlines. Togo continues to experience profound political challenges. After nearly three decades of one-party rule by President Eyadema and the Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais (Assembly of Togolese People, or RPT), the Constitution was changed to permit the registration of other political parties. Though the RPT continues to overwhelmingly dominate the government, there is a great deal of pressure for change from within the country and from outside agencies such as the World Bank and the European Union. As a result of the legislative elections of October 2007, political tension eased even more as opposition parties now hold seats in parliament. With these new political developments, the EU and international organizations resumed aid programs.

A new constitution in 1961 established an executive president, elected for 7 years by universal suffrage, and a weak National Assembly. During this period, four principal political parties existed in Togo: the leftist Juvento (Togolese Youth Movement); the Union Democratique des Populations Togolaises (UDPT); the Parti Togolais Du Progres (PTP), founded by Grunitzky but having limited support; and the Comite Unite Togolaise (CUT), the party of President Olympio. Rivalries between elements of these parties had begun as early as the 1940s, and they came to a head with Olympio dissolving the opposition parties in January 1962, ostensibly because of plots against the majority party government. Many opposition members, including Grunitzky, fled to avoid arrest. On January 13, 1963, President Olympio was assassinated in an uprising of army non-commissioned officers dissatisfied with conditions following their discharge from the French army.

Since the return to multiparty rule in 1991, elections in the country have been characterized by military intimidation and partisan administration of the process. Over the years, opposition parties and civil society groups have repeatedly expressed concerns about issues such as the legal framework, unequal access to the media, the validity of the voters list, the announcement and tabulation of results and efforts to prevent party agents and nonpartisan domestic observers from monitoring and reporting on the process.

Togolese law recognizes the right of contesting parties/candidates to observe all aspects of the electoral process. To ensure that they are able to fully exercise this right, political parties need and should receive assistance with the development of monitoring checklists and handbooks, and training of party agents. In the short lead time before the 2007 presidential election, NDI proposed to organize a series of training-the- trainer seminars for political party agents representing the various parties and candidates. This activity would be undertaken in coordination with the European Union, which is providing funding through the UNDP for party agents to be deployed in the polling places on election day.

A combination of domestic and international pressure led Togolese political leaders to undertake an internationally facilitated series of negotiations aimed at normalizing the country’s political climate after the 1998 election. In July 1999, Eyadema and six opposition leaders signed the Accord Cadre de Lomé (ACL) – the Lomé Framework Agreement, which created structures and processes for resolving the country’s political disputes and eventually lifting international sanctions.

The RPT-led government unilaterally modified the electoral code and called legislative elections which were boycotted by the traditional opposition, which includes the current coalition comprising the Alliance pour la Démocratie et le Développement Intégral (ADDI), Comité d’Action pour le Renouveau (CAR), Convention Démocratique des Peuples Africains (CDPA), Parti Socialiste pour le Renouveau (PSR), Union des Forces de Changement (UFC) and Union pour la Democratie et la Solidarité (UDS). In place of the opposition, a handful of new, government-sanctioned opposition parties emerged in the final weeks of the pre-election period. On October 27, 2002, these new parties participated in the election alongside the RPT, eventually winning eight of the 81 seats in the National Assembly, along with one independent candidate. The RPT took the remainder. Government sources claim that 67 percent of Togo’s voting-age population cast ballots in the election, a figure vigorously denied by the traditional opposition.

Of Togo’s sixty-two parties, five participated in the June 2003 presidential elections. The proclaimed results, vigorously contested by the opposition, were: Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) – 57 percent; Union of Forces for Change (UFC) – 34 percent; Action Committee for Renewal (CAR) - 5 percent; Socialist Pact for Renewal (PSR) – 2 percent; and Panafrican Patriotic Convergence (CPP) - 1 percent. In the aftermath of the election, a new attempt was made, under pressure from the European Union (EU), to secure democratic reforms in Togo.

The Union of the Forces of Change (UFC), the largest opposition party, forcefully condemns every action taken by the GOT or the ruling Rally of the Togolese People (RPT).

Opposition parties remain very weak – organizationally and strategically – and appear to be reacting to current events rather than trying to shape them. Resource constraints aside, they displayed a limited state of readiness for the 24 April 2005 polls. They all claimed to be capable of mobilizing the necessary number of party agents to monitor the electoral process.

RPT officials described a well organized structure that descends from the national level all the way down to the local cells of 30 or more party members. Those structures could be used to quickly mobilize supporters and party agents, to collect information from grassroots members and agents, and get information out to constituents. RPT officials confirmed that their representatives participated in training on voter registration procedures and were ready to sit on the Commissions.

The longstanding dominance of the RPT made it particularly difficult for the opposition parties to organize and mobilize resources. Meanwhile, there is little distinguishing the structures of the ruling party from the state apparatus. RPT utilizations of the institutions of the state for campaign purposes was also expected to extend beyond material resources.

The principal opposition party, the UFC (Union des Forces de Changement) seemed ambiguous about the whole election process. They played hard to get when the National Dialogue group was formed and were hedging their bets at every turn. They bargained hard in reaching the Global Political Accord, which they signed in August 2006, but they refused to participate in the Government of National Union. The largest opposition party, the UFC, continued to be hindered by its schizophrenic leadership arrangement in which its charismatic leader Gilchrist Olympio is, for all practical purposes, permanently absent from Togo.

The other major opposition parties, the CAR (Action Committee for Renewal) and CDPA (Democratic Convention of African Peoples), participated in the Government of National Union and in the elections.

By 2007 one quandary hinged on whether to categorize opposition parties playing a role in the current government, namely the CPP (Panafrican Patriotic Convergence) party of the prime minister (who was no longer involved in the Togolese national dialogue) and the foreign affairs minister's PDR (Party for Democracy and Revival), as truly opposition or as part of the ruling party. The ruling RPT (Rally of Togolese People) reportedly refuses to classify the two political factions as part of their own group and wants to label them opposition.

Political parties in Togo are highly personalized. Concerns were frequently expressed regarding opportunities for rank and file members to influence party policy. One manifestation of this problem is the emergence of the Nouvelle Dynamique Populaire, a movement of young political activists who are very vocal about their frustrations with lack of internal democracy in political parties. The group was amongst those who publicly criticized the choice of the Akitani-Bob as the opposition coalition candidate, arguing the need for a younger and more dynamic candidate.





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