TOGO: Court confirms ruling party victory in legislative poll

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Togo's Constitutional Court has confirmed that the ruling party won a majority in the 14 October election, after the main opposition party had contested the results, charging fraud.

On 30 October the Court said the ruling Rally of the Togolese People party took 50 of 81 seats in the poll, seen as pivotal to the country's regaining favour with the international community after years of isolation.

All was calm in the capital Lome when the Court announced its decision, with diplomats, political party representatives and journalists present.

The main opposition Union of Forces for Change (UFC) party – which took 27 seats - had challenged the results of the poll, charging in part that ballot boxes had been tampered with and fake election cards distributed.

But election observers - including the Economic Community of West African States - had declared the poll fair and transparent, and other opposition parties did not contest the results.

UFC secretary general Jean-Pierre Fabre told IRIN on 30 October he disagreed with the Court's ruling, saying the body "has refused to apply the law." Fabre did not say whether his party would pull out of government or take any other action to contest the results.

Following the Court’s announcement, one analyst said it remains to be seen how politics in Togo will go forward. “I’m wondering how the [ruling party] is going to handle this outcome, because it’s the way everyone deals with these results that will show whether [the country’s] political crisis is resolved,” said Boonah Ketehouli, former communications minister and now law professor and head of an anti-discrimination group. Ketehouli, who was one of the election observers, said the outcome shows "a country divided".

But even with the dispute over results, many – including members of the opposition – have applauded the overall electoral process. Given Togo's history of polls marred by boycotts and violence, political parties and observers welcomed the largely peaceful and well-organised poll.

The four remaining seats went to the opposition Action Committee for Renewal party. The Court said 85 percent of Togo's some 3 million eligible voters participated -- down from the figure of 95 percent announced earlier by electoral officials.

European Union observers have said the 14 October poll was carried out in "transparent" and “satisfactory” conditions. Once Togo's biggest donor, the EU cut ties in 1993 over governance concerns. While the EU started funding some projects earlier this year, it has said a fair, credible legislative election could lead to the full resumption of EU’s cooperation with Togo.

Source: IRIN