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Presidential elections - April 2005

Togo is a republic governed by President Faure Gnassingbe, son of former Gnassingbe Eyadema, who died on February 5, after 38 years in power. Eyadema and his party Rally of the Togolese Persons (RPT), strongly backed by the armed forces, dominated politics and maintained firm control over all levels of the country's highly centralized government until his death. Following some constitutional changes in the National Assembly and quick action by the military, Faure Gnassingbe was installed as the new president. Faure eventually bowed to sustained international pressure and stepped down to allow presidential elections. On April 24, Faure was declared president in an election marred by severe irregularities. The civilian authorities generally did not maintain effective control of the security forces.

Before Eyadema's death, the government made some progress in improving its human rights record; however, following Eyadema's death, the government's human rights record deteriorated significantly. The unjust election and its violent aftermath had a significant negative impact on the human rights situation.

On February 5, the government announced the death of president Eyadema. The constitution prohibits any revision of the document in the case of a presidential vacancy. Nevertheless, on February 6, the National Assembly held an extraordinary session to amend the constitution and Electoral Code, dismiss Speaker Fambare Ouattara Natchaba, and elect Eyadema's son Faure Gnassingbe as the new speaker, allowing him constitutionally to step into the presidency. In a ceremony in the middle of the night, the armed forces installed Faure Gnassingbe as the new president. On February 7, the Constitutional Court, vested with guaranteeing respect of the law, swore Faure in as president. On February 22, Faure resigned the presidency due to international and internal pressure. The National Assembly elected a new speaker, Abass Bonfoh, who then became interim president.

Although the law requires holding elections within 60 days of a vacancy in the presidency, the international community and local opposition contended that the election timeframe, culminating with elections on April 24, was not sufficient to ensure a free and fair election.

Numerous irregularities marked the election preparation period. Some registration centers required, in accordance with the law, only the national identity card while others demanded several other documents. Although names of citizens eligible to vote did not appear on voter lists, those of deceased persons did appear. While voter registration cards were readily available in the ruling party-dominated Kara region, the government severely limited access for opposition supporters. The interior ministry released figures before the election showing an 80 to 100 percent rate of registration in ruling party regions and between 20 to 30 percent in opposition strongholds.

On April 22, in an unannounced 2 a.m. press conference, the interior minister, who is responsible for conducting elections, appealed for the postponement of the elections, saying that conditions for a credible election had not been met and that the potential for a civil war was enormous. The interim president denounced the interior minister's statement and removed him from office. The elections were held as planned on April 24.

Accredited international election observers noted massive irregularities during the election itself. For example, observers noted the presence of armed soldiers at polling stations. Also, many polling stations opened late, did not have the voter lists, or did not have ballots. A number of polling places closed on time despite starting late and despite not accommodating all who wanted to vote. Representatives of the opposition, legally permitted to be present inside the voting station, were prevented from doing so. Observers witnessed several underage children voting. There were reports that some ballot boxes arrived already filled with ballots. There were numerous reports of election officials adding ballots to the boxes during the course of election day. There were several claims that ruling party delegates had given voters money and pre-marked ballots to cast.

At the end of election day, FOSEP entered polling stations to take the ballot boxes. According to election observers and an AI report released in July, FOSEP fired shots into the polling stations and took the ballot boxes. Witnesses also reported the same scene being played out with the Presidential Guard Force taking the boxes.

Four persons were killed in Mango on election day when security forces opened fire on opposition supporters who tried to prevent security forces from removing ballot boxes from a polling site.

Presidential elections took place in April 2005, with the main opposition candidate Olympio once again barred from standing. The deeply flawed elections held in April 2005 were marred by violence and widespread accusations of vote tampering, causing tens of thousands of Togolese to flee to neighboring Benin and Ghana.

Although the elections were marred by widespread violence, Gnassingbe was declared the winner with 60.1%, against Bob-Akitani (candidate of Olympio's UFC) who scored 38.3%. The African Union and ECOWAS accepted this result and urged Gnassingbe to include members of the opposition in the new government.

Faure Gnassingbe was pronounced the winner and was pressed by the international community - including regional heads of state - to form a government of national unity, including key opposition figures. After Faure Gnassingbe failed to reach agreement with the opposition, he named as Prime Minister Edem Kodjo of the Panafrican Patriotic Convergence party (CPP), an original founder of the ruling RPT and former OAU Secretary-General and Togolese Prime Minister. Kodjo subsequently named a cabinet that kept security-related ministries in the hands of the RPT and did not include any representatives from the genuine opposition.

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