Polling stations opened in Togo on Saturday in an election widely expected to see President Faure Gnassingbe claim a fourth term in power. Claiming a fourth term will extend his family’s half-century domination of the West African nation.
The incumbent, Faure Gnassingbe has led the country of eight million people since 2005 following the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled with an iron fist for 38 years.
The head of state travelled to the north of the country to vote in Kara, the hometown of the Gnassingbe’s. President Faure faces opposition from six other candidates who face a mammoth task to persuade the 3.6 million registered voters to oust him.
The ballot boxes opened at 07:00 am local time and voters flocked to the country’s 9,376 voting bureaus. The elections was reportedly calm and peaceful.
Just a few days before the elections, Togo’s national election commission revoked a main independent observer group’s accreditation to monitor the country’s election.
Main opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre of the National Alliance for Change came second at the last two elections but has failed to keep the opposition united.
Opposition Candidate claims Citizens are tired of Gnassingbe’s Rule
Agbeyome Kodjo, who served as prime minister under Gnassingbe’s father came to limelight after winning the backing of an influential Catholic archbishop.
In a press conference, Kodjo said the people of Togo want change and that they want an alternative. He further explained the citizens of Togo are tired of the Gnassingbe’s rule.
Some 300 international observers were deployed, mainly from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union, with many African states supporting the incumbent President Faure.
The six opposition challengers have suggested they will unite against the president if he fails to win an outright majority and the election goes to a second round. That vote would be held 15 days after the announcement of the final results.
The authorities faced major protests in 2017 and 2018 demanding an end to the Gnassingbe family’s five-decade stranglehold. But the demonstrations faded in the face of government repression and squabbles among the opposition.
Last May, Faure Gnassingbe oversaw an overhaul of the constitution that allowed him to run this year and potentially remain in office until 2030.
Despite economic growth of around five percent, around half of Togo lives on less than $1.90 per day. Stability and security are central to Faure Gnassingbe’s message as jihadist violence rocks its northern neighbour Burkina Faso.
Togo has so far managed to prevent the bloodshed spilling over and its army and intelligence service are among the most effective in the region.