(AFP, May 6, 2005)
A confidential European Union report on last month’s presidential election win by Faure Gnassingbe in Togo found there was “presumptive evidence of massive fraud,” according to a copy obtained Friday.
The document surfaced the same day the EU Commission officially took frosty “note” of the results of the disputed ballot that brought Gnassingbe, the son of Togo’s longtime ruler, to power in the west African country.
The analysis by an EU diplomat looked at voter lists in Togo and found that there appeared to be a gap between the number of registered voters and an estimate of the voting-age population, with more than 34 percent of 900,000 voters presumed to be false, according to a copy of the report obtained by AFP. The gap was particularly important in areas reportedly favorable to the ruling party, the Rally for the Togolese People, with voter participation between 80 to 99 percent.
In contrast, in Lome, an area favorable to the opposition, voter participation was about 35 percent, as 390,000 registered voters did not or could not vote, the report said.
Voting irregularities were also raised Friday by an ECOWAS poll observer, Martin Assogba, who said the group’s final review of the election radically downplayed the scale of ballot-fraud.
“I saw kids between 10 and 15 years old queuing up to vote with voters’ cards showing them as 25 or 35. It’s worrying that ECOWAS thinks everything went well,” said Assogba, president of a respected pro-democracy association in Benin.
The EU analysis also criticized the observer mission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for covering only election day.
“The ECOWAS observers did not participate in two principal stages which were the revision of the voter lists and the counting of the ballots afterwards, during which numerous irregularities have been reported,” the report said.
ECOWAS officially said after the April 24 vote that the election had in general “met the criteria and principles universally accepted in election matters.”
The EU commission maintained that the report did not reflect the bloc’s official position on the Togo election and no report had been requested of the EU delegation in Lome.
“This is not a report which has been approved by Brussels,” said Amedeu Altafaj, a commission spokesman on development and humanitarian aid issues, when contacted by AFP.
“We never requested such a report from our delegation in Lome,” he added.
In Friday’s statement, EU development and humanitarian aid commissioner Louis Michel “took note of the Constitutional Court of Togo’s announcement of the official results of the presidential election and the swearing in of Faure Gnassingbe as the new president of Togo”.
Gnassingbe, 39, who succeeded his late father, strongman Gnassingbe Eyadema, was credited with a 60-percent majority in the elections whose provisional results unleashed a riot of violence in the west African country that left a reported 100 people dead and sent some 18,500 civilians fleeing to neighboring states.
In the commission’s first official reaction to the election, Michel also said: “It is essential that Togo takes the path of national reconciliation, the only thing that can bring calm and tranquility to the country.”
Ahead of the election, the EU had voiced strong concerns about the democratic handover of power in the country.
The European Union, which in 1993 broke off diplomatic ties with Togo — a nation of 5.56 million people flanked by Benin, Burkina Faso and Ghana — has said it will not fully restore relations until a genuine democracy is in place