Togolese presidential

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Hits 3963 This photo taken on April 11, 2015 in Lome shows people walk by a poster displaying Togolese presidential candidate Mouhamed Tchassona Traore. The west African country will vote on April 26, 2015 in the presidential election. PHOTO | AFP

Togo elects a new president on Saturday, with the main opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre seeking to end nearly 50 years of rule by the Gnassingbe family.

The election in the tiny West African country takes place in a context of change in the region, after a popular uprising ousted neighbouring Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaore last year and Muhammadu Buhari’s recent win in Nigeria.

Mr Compaore was unseated after he tried to extend his 27-year hold on power while General Buhari secured the first opposition presidential election victory in Nigeria’s history last month.

Some 3.5 million voters will decide whether to follow suit and elect Fabre or stick with Faure Gnassingbe, whose 10 years in power follows 38 by his late father, General Gnassingbe Eyadema.

No polls or surveys exist to predict the election outcome.

But diplomats, politicians and members of civil society said that the result could be closer than during the last election in 2010.

Mr Gnassingbe remains the favourite to win a third term in power but Fabre, leader of the main opposition Combat for Political Change (CAP) coalition, has gained ground.

“We are pleasantly surprised by the calm of the campaign but (the gap) has narrowed. Fabre can win, ” said one Western diplomat.

Even those in power are not ruling out the opposition’s chances.

“It could shift. I would say that Faure has a 75 per cent chance of winning and Fabre 25 per cent, ” said one government minister.

In 2010, Gnassingbe won 60.81 per cent of the vote against 33.93 per cent for Fabre — results that were contested by the opposition.

But the international community judged the outcome “acceptable” as opposed to the 2005 election which was marred by fraud and violence resulting in between 400 and 500 deaths, according to the United Nations.

Inequality

The west African regional bloc ECOWAS, the African Union and local civil society groups will have election observers monitoring the Togo poll.

Some 9, 000 police will also be deployed to oversee security throughout the day.

This year’s election, which was initially scheduled for April 15, was postponed by 10 days over claims the voter register was flawed.

The International Organisation of La Francophonie announced last week that the problems had been resolved and the opposition was satisfied with the changes.

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