By John Zodzi
LOME (Reuters) – Togo President Faure Gnassingbe declared an electoral victory on Monday as official preliminary results showed him re-elected in a landslide, though an opposition candidate also claimed victory and called Monday’s result a “masquerade”.
Glassingbe’s win, if confirmed, will give him a fourth five-year term and extend a family dynasty that began when his father took power in a 1967 coup. But some Togolese worry that a contested outcome could lead to political violence.
Preliminary figures released by the electoral commission showed Gnassingbe winning with 72 percent of the vote, with his main opponent, former prime minister Gabriel Messan Agbeyome Kodjo, at 18%. Longtime opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre received just 4%. Final results are expected in the coming days.
“To my unlucky adversaries, I would like to tell them, this is the game of democracy,” Gnassingbe told supporters in the early hours of Monday. “Let’s stop improvising, stop inventing imaginary numbers and submit to the judgment of the Togolese people.”
Kodjo repeated the claim that his camp’s tallies showed him winning the election. He had said before the results were announced that he had won around 60 percent of the vote.
“We’re calling on the Togolese people to mobilize to show its disapproval of this election masquerade,” he told reporters.
Under the law, Kodjo has 72 hours after the results were announced to officially contest the results with the Supreme Court. It was not clear if he planned to do so.
Togo has seen protests in the past by demonstrators who say the president has illegally outstayed his welcome. When Gnassingbe came to power in 2005 after his father’s death, mass protests against the family’s rule were met with a violent police crackdown during which at least 500 people were killed.
The streets of the ocean-side capital Lome were calm on Monday. Schools reopened and students were in class.
Still, many citizens doubted the results. Afi Amedzro, a 38-year-old woman working in micro-finance, blamed Gnassingbe’s party for cheating.
“They are still arrogant vote thieves,” she said. “What we saw on Saturday at polling stations is more than enough to give victory to Agbeyome Kodjo.”
Another five-year term for Gnassingbe would be a blow to Togo’s fractured opposition, which is desperate for change but has been unable to launch a concerted political campaign against the president.
Togo is the 10th poorest country in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund.
(Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Peter Graff and Nick Macfie)