(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Eyadema wins 57% majority in presidential election

President Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo, Africa's longest serving ruler, has won a further five years in power in an election denounced by the opposition as being riddled with fraud.

Eyadema, who has ruled this former French colony with an iron hand for 36 years, won 57.22 percent of the votes cast in Sunday's presidential election, according to official results announced by the National Independent Electoral Commission.

Emmanuel Bob-Akitani of Togo's main opposition party, the Union of Forces for Change (UFC), came second with 34.14 percent, it added.

Bob-Akitani stood as a proxy for UFC leader Gilchrist Olympio, who was barred from running in the election on the grounds that he failed to submit proper certificates showing that he lived in Togo and had paid his taxes.

Four other opposition candidates shared the remaining 8.64 percent of the vote in the ballot, which was the third in which Eyadema had allowed opposition leaders to stand against him.

The former army general, who seized power in a 1967 coup, legalised opposition parties in 1991, but has kept them on a tight leash since then.

As in the 1998 presidential election, which Olympio was allowed to contest, the opposition cried foul. It accused Eyadema and his ruling Rally of the Togolese People (RTP) party, of massive fraud and vote rigging.

Observers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union and the Entente Council said on Tuesday they had witnessed some minor irregularities, but no large-scale fraud as alleged by the opposition.

The European Union declined to send observers to monitor the June 1 poll, saying it was unlikely to be free and fair.

Bob-Akitani claimed victory on Tuesday, as did another opposition candidate Maurice Dahuku Pere, but two days later there were no indications that either man was planning to prevent Eyadema from serving a fresh term.

Residents in the capital Lome said on Thursday that the city's streets had returned to their usual calm after opposition protests on Tuesday led to clashes with the security forces and the arrest of two UFC leaders who were released a day later.

Since then, soldiers have been patrolling the capital, especially the Be district where the UFC headquarters are situated. The government warned that it would not tolerate disturbances to public order and would crack down on anyone who questioned the official results of the election.

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