Togo election peaceful, with turnout low, observers say

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 26, 2015 3:03 PM

By David Lewis and John Zodzi

LOME (Reuters) - Togo's presidential election took place without major incidents, although turnout appears to have been just over 50 percent, West African and local election observers said on Sunday.

No results have yet been published, but incumbent Faure Gnassingbe is widely expected to win a third term. The vote on Saturday pitted Gnassingbe against four challengers, led by Jean-Pierre Fabre.

ECOWAS, West Africa's regional bloc, said its observer mission had not seen any incident that might undermine the vote and declared the process "free and fair".

The grouping called on leaders and citizens to abstain from violence and intimidation -- a reminder of Togo's history of post-election troubles.

Hundreds died after the 2005 election that brought Gnassingbe to power following the death of his long-ruling father. Unlike many of its neighbors, Togo has no term limits in its constitution, meaning Gnassingbe is free to run for as many terms as he wants.

Security forces have stepped up patrols and the streets of Lome were quiet on Sunday. Initial results of the poll are expected later in the evening.

Election commission officials estimated late on Saturday a turnout of 50-55 percent, down from around 60-64 percent in previous votes.

A network of local observers said turnout was 52 percent in the polling stations they witnessed.

"Voting was calm and the polling stations worked for voters, even though there was a low turnout," said Paul Amegakpo, the head of the CNSC civil society movement.

Amegakpo said some voters had struggled to find their names on lists at polling stations. Uncertainty over the process before election day probably also contributed to the low turnout.

Togo's vote was delayed by 10 days after opposition parties called for the election lists to be cleaned up. Fabre had also rejected the use of an electronic system to send and collate results, warning it might be used to rig results.

(Editing by Emma Farge and Larry King)