A Peaceful Legislative Election

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Ouédraogo and McIntosh arrive a polling station to observe Togo's Parliamentary Elections

Togo’s parliamentary election held on July 25 nation-wide, buried the general fear that the exercise would be characterized by violence

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Aug. 5, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

Ouedraogo (writing) and McIntosh discussing with a woman political party agent at the polling centre
Ouedraogo (writing) and McIntosh discussing with a woman political party agent at the polling centre

MORE than three million registered Togolese voters trooped out on Thursday, July 25, to elect a 91-seat parliament from the more than 1,000 candidates who registered for the contest. They comprise candidates from Togo’s ruling party and opposition coalitions, notably the “Save Togo Coalition” and Rainbow Coalition,” along with 14 independents.

The election held across Togos’s five regions amidst a less tensed atmosphere under the watchful eyes of 80 observers deployed by the Economic Community of West African States across Togo’s five regions of Maritime, Plateau, Central, Kara and Savanes, for the parliamentary elections.

The Africa Union, AU, on the other hand sent 30 observers to Togo. The polls, which were originally fixed for October 2012, was postponed to July 21, before the July 25, date. The postponement gave the election commission some advantage in logistics planning and implementation, according to Angele Aguigah Dola, chairperson, Togo’s Independent National Electoral Commission, CENI,

Head of ECOWAS Poll Observation Mission Amb Leopold Ouedraogo (in front) with ECOWAS Commission Vice President Dr. Toga McIntosh at a polling station
Head of ECOWAS Poll Observation Mission Leopold Ouedraogo (in front) with ECOWAS Commission’s Toga McIntosh at a polling station

The election took place in the wake of an appeal by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, for candidates in the election to accept the results without rancor. Before the election, ECOWAS had to reconcile the political parties in the country to pave way for a conducive atmosphere for peaceful, transparent and credible legislative election, whose outcome is expected to impact on the presidential polls in 2015. The reconciliation came after a threat by the opposition to boycott the polls over allegations of unfair delineation of the constituencies and uneven playing field among others. The opposition parties agreed to participate following intervention by ECOWAS and other partners during an inclusive political dialogue brokered by ECOWAS resulted in a peace agreement.

Toga McIntosh
McIntosh

Ambassador Leopold Ouedraogo, the head of the ECOWAS Election Observer Mission made the appeal, during several crucial stakeholders consultations. On July 22, Ouedraogo met with the officials of  CENI, and the Non-Governmental Organisation, Goree Institute for Electoral Assistance as part of continuing consultations with stakeholders and pacification efforts ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections.

While exchanging views with Dola, Ouédraogo, a member of the ECOWAS Council of the Wise, assured Togo’s political actors and the electorate of ECOWAS’ readiness to support and accompany the country in its electoral process as part of its objective to institutionalise democracy and good governance in the region. He told them that the ECOWAS observers were in Togo, as neutral umpires and would submit their report on the process and conduct of the polls bearing in mind the relevant national and regional electoral texts, such as the ECOWAS protocol on Democracy and Good Governance. He also highlighted efforts undertaken by ECOWAS to reconcile the political parties in the country towards ensuring a condusive atmosphere for peaceful, transparent and credible legislative elections.

Togolese voters on queue at a polling centre
Togolese voters on queue at a polling centre

Also on the eve of the election, Ouedraogo met with Bishop Nicodemus Barrigah-Benissan of Atakpamé, chair of the country’s Justice, Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  Also present at the meeting, which took place in Atakpamé, some 161-km north of the nation’s capital, Lomé, was Kabine Komara, head of the African Union Observer Mission, and Guinea’s former Prime minister. During the meeting, the three men reviewed the political situation in the country and noted that the pre-election tension had eased.

To consolidate the peace and ensure violent-free election, they appealed for tolerance and mutual respect among political leaders and their followers.They also enjoined politicians to accept the results of the elections and follow lawful channels to seek redress in the interest of peace and national unity. Barrigah-Benissan expressed his gratitude to ECOWAS and the AU for their support and solidarity with Togo, and promised to intensify his conciliatory efforts for peace and stability of the country.  At their meeting in Lomé before the Atakpamé trip, the heads of ECOWAS and the AU observer missions expressed their willingness to synergise in providing meaningful support to the people of Togo towards the consolidation of peace in the country and deepening of democracy and good governance in Africa.

ECOWAS Election Observers during a briefing session in Lome
ECOWAS Election Observers during a briefing session in Lome

Earlier, Ouédraogo, accompanied by Toga McIntosh, Vice President of ECOWAS Commission, also met with the ministers of foreign affairs Elliot Ohin and interior, Gilbert Bawara, who both assured the ECOWAS delegation of Togo’s preparedness for the parliamentary election. The two ministers recalled the crucial role played by ECOWAS in reconciling the parties in the country before the election, capped by the solidarity visit by President Alassan Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire, chairman of the authority of heads of state and government, accompanied by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of Nigeria and Kadré Desire Ouédraogo, president of the ECOWAS Commission.

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