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Togo bars observer group from monitoring election

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A motorbike taxi drive past campaign banners of Togolese President and presidential candidate of the ruling Union for the Republic (UNIR) party, Faure Gnassingbe, at the Sokode Market in northern Togo, on February 14, 2020. – When Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe took to the stage for an election rally in second city Sokode this month the crowd chanting his slogan “Knockout!” sent out a potent symbol. The celebratory mood at the rally marked a sharp turnaround in a city that not long ago was a hotbed of opposition pushing for an end to more than half a century of domination by Gnassingbe and his family. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Togo’s election authorities on Wednesday barred a main independent observer group from monitoring an upcoming poll expected to see President Faure Gnassingbe extend his family’s decades-long rule.

The West African nation of 8 million holds a presidential ballot on Saturday with Gnassingbe cruising towards a fourth term in office after shrugging off a wave of opposition protests.

The leader took over in 2005 after the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who led with an iron fist for 38 years after seizing power in a coup in 1967.

The electoral commission said it had cancelled the accreditation of the National Consultation of Civil Society of Togo to field their 500 observers nationwide, accusing the coalition of “preparing to carry out interference” in the vote.

The authorities have already blocked monitors from the Catholic Church from observing the election.

Gnassingbe and his allies maintain a stranglehold over the country and critics insist that the vote will not be free and fair.

A wave of major protests swept the country in 2017 and 2018 demanding that Gnassingbe leave power.

A tough government crackdown and splits among the opposition saw the demonstrations fizzle out.

The president pushed through constitutional changes in May allowing him to stand again this year — and potentially remain in power to 2030.


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