TOGO: Security personel to vote on Thursday instead of Sunday
Lome, 28 May 2003 (IRIN) - Togo's state security personnel including the army and the para-military gendarmerie, will cast their votes for the country's next president three days ahead of millions of other Togolese, officials said. Their ballots will only be counted after Sunday polls close, officials added.
Millions of voters go to the polls on Sunday. The security personnel will instead vote on Thursday so their can be deployed to maintain law and order on election day, officials said.
Incumbent president General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who is running for re-election after 36 years as president, signed a decree on Friday designating Thursday as voting day for the security forces.
Days before Togo's third multi-party elections in 43 years of independence, voters however complained that they still had difficulties getting voters cards. "They have been giving me the run-around and still nothing, today Tuesday", a registered voter told IRIN, as he tried to get a voting card in the capital, Lome.
The interior ministry however reassured the population that all the measures would be taken to ensure that all voters have their cards before Sunday. But it said "they have to be patient".
Opposition candidates have since the beginning of the electoral campaigns accused the ruling Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) of Eyadema, of irregularities. They allege the irregularities are meant to meant to prevent opposition supporters from voting.
On Monday opposition leader Leopold Gnininvi, who withdrew from the polls, said that only three people out of 10 had got their cards. Gnininvi, a solar energy professor said he was dropping out to rally behind Emmanuel Bob-Akitani, the candidate of Togo's most prominent opposition party, the Union of Forces for Change.
Another opposition party, the Pan-African Patriotic Convergence said on Tuesday that in recent days state authorities had prevented it from holding rallies in several towns. In response to what it deemed personal attacks by the RPT against its candidate Edem Kodjo, the party asked for a televised debate between Eyadema and Kodjo to discuss Eyadema's reign as president of the small West African country.
Other parties have also complained of being barred from holding meetings in some areas. They also said their television addresses were censored by the state television.
Six candidates are expected to vie for Togo's presidency. Over three million Togolese are expected to vote on Sunday.IRIN Web Special on Togo's elections