Magazine article New Internationalist

Togo

Magazine article New Internationalist

Togo

Article excerpt

1 June was Day of the Dinosaur in Togo - a red-letter day for that dwindling band of dictators who have held sway over a country for decades but a very bad day for African democracy. On that date Gnassingbe Eyadema duly recorded his third crushing victory in an `open' presidential election, having changed the constitution to allow himself to stand for another term only two years after swearing that he would stand down.

In the good old days Eyadema - who came to power in a coup d'etat in 1967 - could present himself as the only candidate and be rewarded, as in 1985, with 99.95 per cent of the vote. These days he has to participate in elections designed to pay lip-service to the inconvenient modern addiction to multi-party ballots. His people, moreover, are so much less grateful than they used to be - his share of the vote was only 57 per cent. Not only that but opposition politicians insist on giving out alternative results that claim he was actually defeated.

International observers stopped short of ruling the election corrupt, though the Francophone group - which was headed by former Senegalese President Abdou Diouf and had the largest number of observers - said the results should be taken with a significant pinch of salt. In the department of Zio protestors destroyed ballot boxes which they said had been stuffed with fictitious votes for the President.

Even if voting itself had been as free and fair as the West African air, critics could point to Eyadema's `creative' use of a new ruling that anyone who has not lived continuously in the country for the previous four years cannot run for President. This conveniently ruled out Gilchrist Olympio, who was not only his main rival in the last election in 1998 but is also the son of the country's first President, murdered in 1963 by army officers rumoured to include Eyadema.

Olympio, currently in Paris, has pledged to form a government of national reconstruction in exile. …

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