LOME, Togo (AP) — Togo's president, whose family has ruled this small West African nation for nearly 50 years, appealed for peace as he vied for re-election Saturday against four other candidates.
President Faure Gnassingbe cast his ballot in the morning in the capital, Lome. Gnassingbe's father ruled Togo for 38 years before dying of a heart attack in 2005. The son assumed power and later that year won an election that was widely viewed as violent and flawed. He won another election in 2010.
"Now it is the duty of each Togolese to make a choice," Gnassingbe said at his polling station. "I hope this choice will be made in peace."
Some 3.5 million people have registered to vote, representing about half of Togo's population of 6.8 million.
Last year lawmakers rejected a bill that would have limited presidents to two terms, leaving the way open for Gnassingbe to seek a third term. Soldiers used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse thousands demonstrating in favor of the reforms last November, according to Amnesty International.
The leading opposition candidate, Jean-Pierre Fabre, has said he would foster reconciliation by reforming the military and making other changes.
Polling stations were scheduled to open at 7 a.m., though as late as 10 a.m. some in the capital on the country's southern coast remained empty, suggesting a low turnout. Gnassingbe hails from the north, while the south is generally seen as a source of opposition support.
Tsomana Yovo Aki, a 57-year-old motorcycle taxi driver, said he was voting for an opposition candidate, though he declined to specify which one. He said he was worried about the high cost of living and poor public services, especially in the country's hospitals.
"We need a change at the head of the government so that another can come to power and show us his style of governing," Aki said.
Preliminary results were expected to begin coming in as soon as Sunday, though the electoral commission officially has six days to announce them.