Togo legislative elections 2013

Gerry Taama (C) from the New Togolese Engagement party campaigns at a local market ahead of legislative elections in Lome, TogoThe opposition has failed to agree on a single electoral list

Citizens of the small, poverty-stricken West African country of Togo are to vote on Thursday in long-delayed parliamentary elections.

The vote is seen as an indication of how the public will vote in presidential elections next year.

Why were the elections delayed?

The vote was postponed from October 2012 after mass protests at the government's last-minute changes to the electoral code, which the opposition said had gerrymandered constituencies for the benefit of the ruling party.

The polls have been rescheduled twice since then, as mediators struggled to bring government and opposition into agreement.

Only in July itself did the government agree to meet some of the opposition's demands.

What concessions has the government made?

It freed 10 opposition figures on bail, having earlier charged them with setting fire to two major food markets in January - although 25 activists remain in custody.

Opposition parties will now have representatives on the National Independent Electoral Commission and at polling stations, and receive state funds for their election campaigns.

Although observers from the United Nations, Europe and the United States say they are satisfied that the elections will go ahead, the opposition Rainbow Coalition and Let's Save Togo Movement remain unhappy with the electoral law.

Does Togo have a good electoral record?

No. Seven years after independence from France in 1960 Gnassingbe Eyadema seized power in a coup and his family has been in charge ever since.

He presided over a one-party state until 1991, when he gave in to international pressure and adopted a democratic constitution.

However, the opposition said nothing really changed - they were constantly oppressed and elections rigged. When the president died in 2005, the army simply ignored the constitution and installed his son, Faure Gnassingbe, as president.

Hundreds died in street protests and after Togo's neighbours imposed sanctions, the new president agreed to elections. He won these two months later amid opposition allegations of rigging.

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