LOMé - Voting in Togo's presidential election began calmly yesterday against a backdrop of violence in previous polls and opposition allegations incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe may rig the outcome.
Hundreds died in post-election violence in the small West African nation after the 2005 presidential election and voting this time comes as the region is shaken by a coup in Niger, street riots over delayed Ivory Coast polls and instability in Guinea.
Polls in Togo's seaside capital, Lomé, opened at about 7am, with queues forming outside voting stations. It was too early to give any indication of the turnout but there were no reports of problems up country.
"I have just voted for a change in regime. We want jobs and a decent life, but we must look out for fraud as that is what leads to violence," Achille Koto said after voting in the opposition neighbourhood of Be.
West African and European Union observers monitored the election across Togo.
Posters bearing the portraits of the seven candidates were hung across Lomé, but campaigning ceased two days earlier.
"We must all keep in mind that our chosen candidate may or may not be the one chosen by the majority," the head of Togo's electoral commission Taffa Taboin said at a press conference on Wednesday.
"We are committed to an election that is just, fair, transparent and without violence that will allow Togo to take its place among modern democracies."
Gnassingbe, the candidate of the ruling Togolese People's Rally, took power in 2005 after the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled as a dictator for 38 years.
Gnassingbe's 2005 victory set off protests in which the military killed between 400 and 500 people, according to UN estimates, triggering a refugee crisis in Ghana and Benin. - Reuters