Togo: Serious Irregularities Observed in Presidential Election Preparations


Rights & Democracy is alarmed by a lack of transparency and fairness in the election preparations currently underway in Togo in anticipation of the June 1 presidential election.

Montreal, May 30, 2003 – Rights & Democracy is alarmed by a lack of transparency and fairness in the election preparations currently underway in Togo in anticipation of the June 1 presidential election.

“We are very concerned over the numerous irregularities observed. These consist of violations of freedom of speech and freedom of association as well as a harsh crackdown on opposition members, human rights defenders and independent media” states Rights & Democracy President Jean-Louis Roy.

In December 2002, the Togolese National Assembly approved amendments to the Constitution opening the way for President Eyadema to run for another term in office. These legislative amendments were seen by many Togolese and outside observers as a maneuver designed to allow President Eyadema to be reelected to the country’s highest office, although the President said publicly he would not stand for reelection.

On May 3, 2003, the Concertation nationale de la soci?t? civile (CNSC), an independent network of Togolese civil society actors, established the Conseil national de surveillance des ?lections (CONEL) for the purpose of monitoring the election. CONEL’s findings are as follows:

  • The Interior Ministry retains all prerogatives of the Independent National Electoral Commission. The Commission is not working well, its administrative structure is deficient and it is disconnected from the public. Its members are required to remain silent and loyal to the Ministry.
  • Commission members have no control over the way the election is being organized. They do not have access to the Interior Ministry’s revised election file.
  • The Ministry has set up its own secret electoral organization process. Its strategy has included delegating management of measures to prevent fraud (e.g., the creation of fictitious polling stations in a number of areas) to known supporters of the governing party.
  • No opposition political party or candidate knows the exact number of Togolese voters because they are denied access to all central database information.
  • According to the Interior Ministry, there are 3 million eligible voters. The Commission, however, suspects padding of the voter list from Togo’s population of 5 million, based on 1993, 1994 and 1998 election statistics.

 

In addition, according to many Togolese observers, the risk of the current internal conflict deteriorating into violent confrontation is high if a legitimate solution is not found quickly.

“It is clear that the conditions prevailing in Togo today do not meet the requirements set down under the Lome Agreement” says Mr. Roy. “We are saddened to observe that the people of Togo will have to wait longer to experience democracy in their country.”

Political Context:

The process of democratic evolution begun over ten years ago has experienced numerous setbacks. One of the most serious was the 1998 presidential election which saw Etienne Eyadema declared winner by the Interior Ministry under dubious conditions. His victory was fiercely contested by the members of the opposition. To resolve the political impasse that ensued, the various players agreed to embark upon long and difficult negotiations known as the inter-Togolese Dialogue, under the auspices of facilitators delegated by the European Union, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, France and Germany. The purpose of the negotiations was to put structures and mechanisms in place that would lead to a lowering of political tensions and set Togo on the path to democracy. The talks led to the signing of the Lome Framework Agreement on July 29, 1999. The Agreement established clear guidelines for collaboration among the various political parties and their functioning as well as the terms and conditions that were to govern the holding of legislative and presidential elections. One of the most important conditions was that organization of the forthcoming legislative election be overseen by an independent National Electoral Commission, which was not the case, however, for the October 27, 2002 legislative election.