Togolese presidential election, 2005
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A presidential election was held in Togo on April 24, 2005, following the death in office of long-time president Gnassingbé Eyadéma. The main candidates were Eyadéma's son, Faure Gnassingbé, and opposition leader Emmanuel Bob-Akitani. The election and the period preceding it were marked by violence, and many people were reported killed in various incidents. According to official results, Gnassingbé won the election, taking slightly more than 60% of the vote. Violence flared in the capital Lomé after the results were announced, and thousands have fled into neighboring countries.
The death of Eyadéma on February 5, 2005, was followed by the naming of his son, Faure, as president. This move was taken first by the military, ostensibly to ensure stability, and subsequently legalized—at least ostensibly—by Gnassingbé's election as parliament speaker by the parliament, which is controlled by the ruling party, the Rally for the Togolese People (RPT). The parliament subsequently changed the constitution so that elections would not need to be held within 60 days, thus allowing the son to serve out the remainder of his father's term, which would have expired in 2008. These events were branded an unconstitutional coup by many, who thought that the parliament speaker at the time of Eyadéma's death, Fambaré Ouattara Natchaba, should have taken power according to the constitution. Under heavy pressure from others in the region, Gnassingbé stepped down on February 25 and was replaced by Bonfoh Abbass, but he ran for president with the backing of the ruling party in an election on April 24.
Faure had been formally chosen as the party's candidate immediately prior to his resignation on February 25. The main opposition leader, Gilchrist Olympio, was barred from standing due to a provision that a presidential candidate must have lived in the country for 12 months prior to the election; Olympio had been in exile, and his party, the Union of Forces for Change (UFC), nominated Emmanuel Bob-Akitani, the party's vice-president, as its candidate instead, representing a six-party opposition coalition. Bob-Akitani, who was chosen as the joint candidate of the six parties on March 14, previously and unsuccessfully ran against Gnassingbé's father in 2003. Olympio returned to the country from exile on March 19 and endorsed Bob-Akitani's candidacy. Harry Olympio of the Rally for the Support of Democracy and Development (RSDD) said in mid-March that he would be a candidate; he pointed to Bob-Akitani's advanced age in saying that Togo needed youthful leadership. Gnassingbé, at age 38, was even younger than Harry Olympio, however, and he also tried to use this to his advantage by stressing the need for youthful leadership.
Candidates had until March 26 to register, and campaigning took place from April 8 to April 22. The opposition demanded the postponement of the election, and it continued to do so after the electoral commission said on March 23 that the election would go ahead as scheduled. Demonstrations both for and against the April 24 date were held on March 26. Voter registration began on March 28. Complaining of irregularities in the registration process, minor candidates Harry Olympio and Nicolas Lawson also called for the election to be delayed by one month on March 29. Harry Olympio alleged that some opposition supporters were not being allowed to register; he also alleged that voter cards issued for deceased individuals were being distributed. Lawson alleged that people were being intimidated by the army, predicted "massive electoral fraud", and said that failure to postpone the election would result in a call for revolution.
On April 16, seven people—six from the ruling party and one from the opposition—were reportedly killed in clashes between supporters of the two sides. Each side accused the other of provoking the violence.
A few days before the election, interior minister Francois Boko said it would be "suicidal" to hold the election as planned and called for it to be postponed. He also called for a transitional government to be set up that would last for one or two years with an opposition prime minister. This call was quickly rejected by interim president Bonfoh Abbass, who also said that Boko would be replaced as interior minister. Bob-Akitani, who also wanted the elections postponed, called Boko's action "courageous".
Nicolas Lawson of the Party for Renewal and Redemption (PRR) had planned to contest the election but withdrew shortly after Boko's statement. Another candidate, Kofi Yamgnane, withdrew from the race in favor of Bob-Akitani a month earlier, on March 23.
As the voting ended on April 24, three people were reported to have been killed. Each side has accused the other of disruption and stuffing ballot boxes. On April 25, Gnassingbé and Gilchrist Olympio reportedly reached a deal providing for the establishment of a government of national unity, regardless of who won the election, but this was later denied by the opposition. On April 26, provisional results were announced: Gnassingbé won with 60.22% of the vote, with Bob-Akitani coming in second with 38.19%. Harry Olympio received only 0.55% of the vote, while Lawson took 1.04% despite having withdrawn from the race. 63.6% of registered voters participated in the election. The constitutional court confirmed Gnassingbé's win on 3 May, when official results were released.
Official election results
|Candidates - nominating parties||Votes||%|
|Faure Gnassingbé - Rally for the Togolese People (Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais)||60.15|
|Emmanuel Bob-Akitani - Union of Forces for Change (Union des Forces du Changement), supported by Alliance of Democrats for Integral Development (Alliance des Démocrates pour le Développement Intégral), Action Committee for Renewal (Comité d'Action pour la Renouveau), Democratic Convention of African Peoples (Convention Démocratique des Peoples Africains) and Socialist Pact for Renewal (Pacte Socialiste pour le Renouveau)||38.25|
|Nicolas Lawson - Party for Renewal and Redemption (Parti pour le Renouveau et la Rédemption)||1.04|
|Harry Olympio - Rally for the Support of Democracy and Development (Rassemblement pour le soutien de la démocratie et du développement)||0.55|
|Total (turnout 63.6 %)||2,200,274|
|Invalid or blank votes||88,005|
On April 27, 11 people were reported dead and 95 injured in clashes as supporters of the opposition battled the police in Lomé. Bob-Akitani subsequently declared himself president, claiming to have actually taken 70% of the vote. By April 29 approximately 100 people were reported to have been killed, many in the town of Aneho, near the border with Benin. While Lomé was reported to be calmer than immediately after the election, armed men shot into the German cultural center before burning the building down on the evening of April 28.
Gnassingbé was sworn in as president on May 4. The Togolese League of Human Rights said later in May that 790 people had been killed and 4,345 had been hurt in the violence, covering the period from March 28 to May 5. This is considerably higher than previous estimates of a death toll of about 100. An official commission of inquiry into the violence has been ordered by the government, the results of which are planned to be made public within three months. About 24,000 people are said to have fled into neighboring Ghana and Benin.
- Ebow Godwin, "AP Interview: Opposition leader Harry Olympio says he's running for president in Togo", Associated Press, March 18, 2005.
- "Date set for elections in Togo", Deutsche Presse-Agentur, March 4, 2005.
- Ebow Godwin, "Opposition calls for delay in Togo election", Sapa-Associated Press (IOL), March 30, 2005.