Togo voted Thursday to elect its next president. While politicians and observers have welcomed a peaceful election, fraud has been detected in several neighborhoods in the capital, Lome. Report.
The lively atmosphere lasted for only three short hours at the Bassadji Catholic primary school polling centre.
It is around 10 am, Thursday, March 4, a day set aside for the Togolese presidential elections, and a fraud attempt has just been foiled by voters present in one of the voting rooms. A large crowd, made up of residents, has gathered in the school’s courtyard to perform their civic duty. In one of the voting rooms, a woman attempts to suspend the vote for a few minutes. In vain. The person in charge of the polling station won’t allow it.
According to those present, the woman had a pass that allowed her direct access into one of the voting rooms. “Her nervousness and her big bag intrigued us all. Some young people went after her to snatch it,” said Komlan, a 32 year-old driver who witnessed the scene. “Inside (the bag), we discovered a stack of mandate forms (proxy forms) filled and signed. Some were not even filled but were already stamped and signed.”
Members of the security force, FOSEP, assigned to the polling centre try to intervene. But concerned citizens, filled with suspicion, refuse to hand over the bag and its contents and rather entrust it to representatives of the Union of Forces for Change (UFC), who in turn hand it over to the parliamentary representation of the main opposition party, located in the district Attikpodji in Lomé.
Numerous fraud attempts reported
On the usually crowded Boulevard 13 Janvier, traffic is very low. Most Togolese have opted to stay home for fear of violent events. But the President of the Lomé-Commune Youth (CFU), Jean Eklou, is busy at work. “Each party must have only one representative in each polling office, but the RTP does not respect this obligation. Moreover, the RPT gave five, ten, fifteen, twenty mandates per person. It’s against the law,” says the representative of the main opposition party in the country. “In several centres, the youth observed this and confronted those people carrying briefcases or bags… the fraudulent mandates discovered by our observers are being sent to us.”
It would be noted that no international observers were present in the small office at the time of the incident. Only Togolese nationals – 3 300 people – witnessed the fraud attempt in Bassadji, despite the fact that 40 election observers from the African Union (AU) have been in Togo since February 23. In addition, hundreds of other observers from the West African economic body, ECOWAS and the European Union (EU) have also been deployed throughout the territory. But their absence at small polling centres on Thursday, seems to have given room for manipulations.
The 18 polling stations in the capital count about 500 offices in the city, and 6,000 across the country. All all the intercepted mandates were in favour of the Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais (RPT, Rally of the Togolese People). The non-exhaustive list obtained by Afrik-news.com only shows several small districts: Be Plage school, Cité du Port primary school, l’école primaire publique (public primary school) as well as lycée Gbényédji, l’école primaire évangélique de Lomnava, l’école publique évangélique. Others include publique du quartier de Pa de Souza, Felicio de Souza I & II public primary schools, Be Gare, Gbetsiogbe and Ablogame public primary schools.
According to the rules of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a voter cannot represent more than one person, nor vote outside their designated polling stations. However, documents seized at eighteen different locations show that each of the intercepted smugglers had an undefined number of mandates in their possession, while the rule of voting in one’s own polling centre was not adhered to.
Source of tension
Incumbent President Faure Gnassingbé expressed his “confidence” after casting his vote. During the election campaign, which closed on Tuesday, March 2, Mr. Gnassingbé urged some 3 281 000 voters in the country not to condone “new tensions.” But, the fraud attempts are more likely to arouse tensions among the population.
Meanwhile, other similar incidents, which have not yet been proved, have been rumoured today… Faure Gnassingbé’s desire for the “2010 presidential elections to follow the Ghanaian model” seems to be headed for a big failure.
But a report, which comes as a goodwill gesture for the opposition, rendered during the electoral process, denounced an inflated electoral list in the north on election days, between February 28 and March 4.
Questions as to whether or not this new election “test” will play in favour of the son of former president, Gnassingbe Eyadema, despite tensions and fraudulent incidents, are yet to be answered as the population awaits belated provisional results, yet to be announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).