Apr 26, 2015 8:15 PM

Togo counts votes as president seeks third term

The Associated Press

LOME, Togo (AP) Officials in Togo on Sunday added up results from a presidential vote that had the lowest turnout of any election conducted in the past decade.

President Faure Gnassingbe is seeking a third term against four opposition challengers. Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005 when he succeeded his father, who died after 38 years in office. The family has ruled this West African nation for nearly 50 years.

The turnout for Saturday's vote was between 53 and 55 percent of the 3.5 million people registered, Taffa Tabiou, head of the election commission, said Sunday. That turnout is lower than presidential contests in 2005 and 2010 and legislative elections in 2007 and 2013.

The commission has six days to announce the official results but Interior Minister Gilbert Bawara said at a press conference Sunday he hoped results would be announced before midnight. The government sent a plane to the northern town of Niamtougou to retrieve ballots from polling stations in the country's north and bring them to Lome, the capital, Bawara said.

As the hour approached midnight, however, the process of reading out results had not yet begun.

Some opposition supporters expressed concern about rigging, citing Gnassingbe's first election in 2005, which was marred by serious allegations of fraud. At some polling stations that year, soldiers burst in and made off with ballot boxes.

An observer mission of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS said it turned up "no major incident that may taint the credibility of the voting process." The mission appealed to all Togolese to refrain from "violence, intimidation or provocation."

The leading opposition candidate said he would be watching the process closely.

"We're keeping a cool head as we await the results, and then we'll see. I ask everyone to stay calm," Jean-Pierre Fabre said. "If the ruling party wants to try a coup, it won't work."


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