, LOME, Jul 26 – Togo tallied votes on Friday after long-delayed parliamentary elections that were mainly peaceful and with the opposition seeking to weaken the ruling family’s decades-long grip on power.
The polls came after months of protests seeking sweeping electoral reforms. Final results and a breakdown of the number of seats for each party in the proportional electoral system were not expected for a couple days.
Early results in some areas of the capital Lome showed opposition coalition Let’s Save Togo and President Faure Gnassingbe’s UNIR party with the most votes, but it was too early to draw conclusions.
The most prominent Let’s Save Togo candidate is longtime opposition figure Jean Pierre Fabre, who finished second to Gnassingbe in 2010 presidential elections.
Fabre is popular in Lome and other parts of the south, while the north is the stronghold for Gnassingbe’s party.
The vote was mostly peaceful, though incidents such as late arrival of materials at some polling stations delayed openings.
The government also temporarily shut down an opposition-linked radio station as voting continued after it broadcast allegations of ruling party fraud, sparking a rowdy protest by several hundred people.
A government agency in charge of overseeing the news media issued a statement saying the station, Radio Legende, violated election-day rules by allowing a representative of one of the parties to speak on the airwaves.
Election observers said initial signs from Thursday’s vote were positive and urged calm as results came in. They noted that turnout at the polls appeared to be strong.
“It is still early days, but the peaceful atmosphere we have observed is promising and we would like to encourage the Togolese to work hard to see the electoral process to a successful conclusion,” Leopold Ouedraogo, head of the 80-member observer mission for West African bloc ECOWAS, said in a statement.
The polls were the latest step in the impoverished country’s transition to democracy after Gnassingbe Eyadema’s rule from 1967 to his death in 2005, when the military installed his son as president.
Gnassingbe has since won elections in 2005 and 2010 in the country of six million people, but the opposition has denounced both as fraudulent.
His party won 50 of 81 seats in the last legislative polls in 2007, with 91 seats up for grabs this time.
Presidential polls in 2005 were marred by deadly violence, while 2007 and 2010 elections were viewed by observers as significant steps forward.