Only half Togo’s voters turned out for key poll: commission

togo mapTurnout was low for Togo’s weekend vote, boosting the chances of incumbent Faure Gnassingbe staying in power, extending his family’s almost 50-tear rule, the electoral commission said.

Of some 3.5 million voters called to polling stations on Saturday, only 53 to 55 percent took part, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said.

Counting began as soon as polling stations closed on Saturday, but by Sunday afternoon, no results had yet been announced. The CENI has another five days to announce the outcome.

Turnout was significantly lower than in 2010, when nearly two thirds of registered voters took part.

Experts had said the narrow chance of a loss for Gnassingbe would depend on massive voter turnout, but civil society groups said participation rates were “very weak”.

Gnassingbe has been in power since the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema in 2005, winning contested elections that year and five years later. His father came to power in 1967, and ruled the country with an iron fist.

Gnassingbe’s only credible challenger is Jean-Pierre Fabre of the five-party coalition called Combat for Political Change (CAP 2015).

But analysts say divisions within the opposition camp combined with the benefits of incumbency made Fabre’s prospects of victory very dim and created a sense of resignation among his supporters.

Few people in Togo, a former French colony of roughly seven million people, have felt the benefit of recent economic growth and according to the government, unemployment is rife at 29 percent.

While Lome is considered an opposition stronghold, many in the countryside would rather keep Gnassingbe in power than vote in an opposition they mistrust.

Currently there are no limits to the number of times a president can stand for re-election. The opposition has called for a two-term limit.

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