Togo: elections under pressure

Voters in the West African nation of Togo are turning out in large numbers to choose a successor to Gnassingbe Eyadema, who died earlier this year after four decades in power. Angry opposition supporters allege the vote is being rigged in favor of Mr. Eyadema's son, the ruling party candidate, and they are threatening protests.

One of the first to vote was 39-year-old &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Faure Gnassingbe, who said a first battle had been won with the holding of this election, in line with the demands of the West African regional grouping, ECOWAS, and Togo's constitution.

Mr. Gnassingbe was installed as president by the military, following his father's death, but stepped down and agreed to allow these elections under pressure from ECOWAS.

Later, at his late father's luxurious residence, known as Lome II, he told journalists that, if he wins, he will organize a national unity government to appease the Togolese opposition, tells VOA News.

According to ABC News, many hope the vote will revive this tattered country and make Eyadema's oppressive legacy a thing of the past. But some fear Togo, thrown into turmoil since the military tried and briefly succeeded to install Gnassingbe in power after Eyadema's Feb. 5 death, may go the way of other war-ravaged West African nations no matter how the vote swings.

The State Department has expressed "deep concern" amid mounting tensions and pre-election violence that's left more than a dozen dead. The United Nations has ordered nonessential staff out.

A fourth candidate, Nicolas Lawson, pulled out of the race Friday after the government fired the security minister who called for the vote to be canceled for fear of bloodshed.

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