The legislative election in Togo, October 2007

The legislative election in Togo, October 2007

558 Notes on Recent Elections / Electoral Studies 27 (2008) 547–577 The legislative election in Togo, October 2007 Tyson Roberts* UCLA, Department o...

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Notes on Recent Elections / Electoral Studies 27 (2008) 547–577

The legislative election in Togo, October 2007 Tyson Roberts* UCLA, Department of Political Science, 4289 Bunche Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1472, USA

a r t i c l e i n f o Article history: Received 28 December 2007 Accepted 1 March 2008

Togo held elections to the National Assembly on 14 October 2007. These legislative elections were notable for a number of reasons. They were the first held since Faure Gnassingbe´ (RPT), son of Gnassingbe´ Eyadema (who ruled for nearly 40 years), succeeded his father to the presidency, and the first since multiparty elections began in 1993 that were not boycotted by the main opposition party (UFC, led by Gilchrest Olympio, son of Togo’s first president Sylvanus Olympio). The president’s party (RPT) won a majority of seats (50 of 81). Although there was speculation that a national unity cabinet might be renewed with an opposition party member as prime minister, the government announced on 14 December is dominated by the RPT, with minor opposition parties included. Although several irregularities have been reported, these were arguably the first freely contested multiparty elections since Togo became independent in 1960. International observers have declared the elections to be broadly free, fair, and transparent. As a result, the European Union, once Togo’s largest international donor, restored full economic cooperation with Togo after a 14-year hiatus, and the World Bank has recommended that donors write off some $145 million worth of debts, thus laying the foundation for economic growth. 1. Background The personal dynamics that played out in October’s elections are older than the country itself. In the pre-independence legislative election of 1958, Sylvanus Olympio’s party (UT) defeated the party of Togo’s first prime minister, Nicolas Grunitzky (PTP). This was arguably Togo’s last freely contested multiparty legislative election until October 2007. Upon independence, Olympio was unopposed in the presidential election and his party swept all 52 seats in a legislative election from which the PTP was banned. In 1963 Eyadema led a coup in which Olympio was assassinated and Grunitzky (PTP) became president. Later that year, voters were presented with a single list of candidates from four parties for the legislature. In a second coup in 1967, Eyadema himself took the presidency, and in 1969 he established Rally for the Togolese People (RPT) as the

* Tel.: þ1 310 415 6066; fax: þ1 310 825 0778. E-mail address: [email protected]

sole legal party. It stood uncontested in the legislative elections of 1979, 1985 and 1990. When neighbor Benin liberalized its political system in 1990, Togo came under intense domestic and international pressure to follow suit. Under the original 1992 multiparty constitution, the president can be re-elected only once, appoints the prime minister from the majority in the 81-seat National Assembly, and has the authority to dissolve parliament. Presidential and legislative elections are to be held every five years. In 1993, Eyadema won a multiparty presidential election marred by violence, boycotted by the opposition, and participated in by one-third of eligible voters. All international observers, with the exception of the French, rejected Eyadema’s re-election, and the EU suspended financial assistance. The Union of Forces for Change (UFC), led by Gilchrist Olympio, boycotted the 1994 legislative election, described as neither free nor fair (EIU, 1997). Although opposition parties won a narrow majority and the Action Committee for Renewal (CAR) won a plurality of seats (36, compared to 35 for RPT), Eyadema maintained control of the government by choosing a prime minister (Edem Kodjo) from the opposition Union for Togolese Democracy (UTD) to form a government dominated by the RPT. In 1998, Olympio contested the presidential elections and all five opposition candidates supported his claim to victory. Yet the official results, condemned by international observers, proclaimed Eyadema the winner. Most opposition parties therefore boycotted the 1999 and 2002 legislative elections, leaving the RPT to win 79 seats in 1999 and 72 seats in 2002. In 2002 the legislature amended the constitution to allow Eyadema to run for re-election again, and to create residency requirements that precluded Olympio, living in exile since an assassination attempt in 1992, from running. The minimum age for presidential candidates was also cut from 45 to 35 to clear the way for Eyadema’s son, Faure Gnassingbe´, to succeed the president. Eyadema was proclaimed winner of the presidential election in 2003; independent observers were absent and the opposition again alleged fraud. In 2004, Eyadema pledged to the EU that he would hold fresh legislative elections under a new electoral code in exchange for a promise of restored economic aid and cooperation. Political liberalization halted in February 2005, however, when Eyadema died and loyalists in the army and ruling party suspended the constitution, proclaiming

Notes on Recent Elections / Electoral Studies 27 (2008) 547–577

Gnassingbe´ president. In response to international pressure, presidential elections were held in April. Again the opposition believed that opposition candidate Emmanuel Bob-Akitani (who again stood for the UFC because of Olympio’s disqualification) polled more votes, and protested when Gnassingbe´ was proclaimed the winner. These protests were violently suppressed by security forces. Local election observers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries declared the elections basically free and fair, but the EU disagreed and continued to withhold aid. In response to continued pressure from the EU, in August 2006 in Ouagadougou the government signed a comprehensive political accord with Togo’s main political parties (including the UFC) that called for a new, transitional government of national unity to organize a fair legislative election. The accord also provided for a new electoral commission (CENI) that for the first time would include representatives from opposition parties, free access to the press for all parties, and a revision of voter registration rolls. The residency requirement was also waived for the 2007 election, and the president agreed to reform the army, in particular ending its domination by the president’s Kabye ethnic group. The deal immediately unblocked some EU funding, with the bulk to be released on the completion of free and fair elections. As promised in the Ouagadougou accord, in September 2006 the president formed a national unity government comprised of 35 ministers, with a prime minister from the CAR and most other opposition parties represented. The UFC refused to take part, believing that as the largest party it should have been offered the prime minister’s post, but it did assign members to the new CENI in preparation for the legislative election. In February 2007, the National Assembly amended the electoral code, returning responsibility for organizing the ballot (which had been transferred to the Ministry of the Interior in 2003) to the CENI, confirming that body’s reconstitution, and changing the method of electing deputies from a single-member simple plurality system to one of party-list proportional representation with a system of highest averages.1 Under the new system there are 31 constituencies: thirty prefectures with two to four seats each and the capital city Lome´ with five seats. The northern regions receive more seats per capita than the southern seats. At the extremes, the Kara region, home to the Kabye, has 24 seats per million inhabitants, while the Maritime region, where Lome´ and many of Olympio’s ethnic group the Ewe are located, has just nine per million. Logistical problems meant that the elections, originally scheduled for 24 June, were pushed back first to 5 August and then to 14 October (just before the constitutional deadline). One problem was the conversion to local conditions of electronic voter registration kits borrowed from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The opposition insisted that registration cards produced by the kits include photographs to reduce fraud. The kits, converted by the Belgian company Zetes, enabled the creation of a new electoral register, complete with fingerprints as well as the photos. The

1 See ‘‘Comment sont de´compte´s les suffrages’’,, October 14, 2007 for details.


opposition suspected the kits could be manipulated to the RPT’s advantage and so pressed for delays until the kits were tested (EIU, 2007b). Registration of voters was completed by August 2007 and all parties pronounced themselves satisfied with the result. The CENI registered 2.9m voters, a sharp fall from the 3.5m registered for the presidential election in 2005, lending support to claims that numbers were artificially inflated in that election. The EU monitored the entire electoral process, from voter registration and election campaigning to the final ballot and the vote count. There were 3500 observers in all, including 80 from the EU, for the election. 2. Parties and campaigning After the RPT and UFC, the next major party is the opposition CAR, led by Yawovi Agboyibo of Yoto Prefecture (Maritime region). Agboyibo was an independent member of parliament from 1985 to 1991, and a leading participant in the struggle for democracy in the early 1990s. Like Olympio, he was a presidential candidate before boycotting the 1993 election. He was elected to parliament in 1994 and proposed as prime minister by his party and its UTD ally before the invalidation of the election of three opposition MPs deprived the alliance of its narrow majority. The CAR refused to join the cabinet controlled by the RPT alongside the UTD. In 1998 and 2003, Agboyibo represented the CAR in presidential elections; each time he placed third and then supported UFC claims of victory. He coordinated the opposition campaign in the 2005 presidential election and declared the RPT victory over the UFC a fraud. In 2006 he was chosen as prime minister to head the national unity government that planned October’s election. The six parties that supported Bob-Akitani (UFC) in the 2005 presidential election make up the ‘Democratic Opposition’, which government publications refer to as the ‘Radical Opposition’. In addition to the UFC and CAR, they are the Alliance of Democrats for Integral Development (ADDI), the Democratic Convention of African Peoples (CDPA), the Socialist Pact for Renewal (PSR), and the Union of Democratic Socialists of Togo (UDS-Togo). The CDPA is led by Leopold Gnininvi of the capital Lome´, a minor presidential candidate in 1998 and 2003 and a member of the national unity government under Agboyibo. Other parties, nominally opposition but closer to the government than those just listed, include the Pan-African Patriotic Convergence (CPP), the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), the Party for Democracy and Renewal (PDR), Togolese Youth Movement (JUVENTO), and Believers Movement for Equality and Peace (MOCEP). The CPP is successor to the UTD, a ‘moderate opposition’ party led by Edem Kodjo, two-time prime minister (1994–1996 and 2005–2006). UDPS, JUVENTO, and MOCEP are minor parties that declined to boycott the 2002 legislative elections and were thereby able to win a handful of seats (see Table 1). Overall, more than 2000 candidates from 32 parties and 41 independent lists competed in the 2007 election. The formal campaign period opened on 28 September but unofficially campaigning had begun much sooner. In the RPT’s ninth congress in December 2006, the president’s party laid out a platform of reform and reconciliation. Its


Notes on Recent Elections / Electoral Studies 27 (2008) 547–577

Table 1 Results of the legislative election in Togo, 14 October 2007 Party

Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) Union of Forces for Change (UFC) Action Committee for Renewal (CAR) Pan-African Patriotic Convergence (CPP) Democratic Convention of African Peoples (CDPA) Party for Democracy and Renewal (PDR) Socialist Pact for Renewal (PSR) Alliance of Democrats for Integral Development (ADDI) Rally for the Support of Democracy and Development (RSDD) Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) Togolese Youth Movement (JUVENTO) Believers’ Movement for Equality and Peace (MOCEP) Independents Registered voters Total votes Invalid/blank votes Voter turnout (%)






Votes per seat in 2007
































supporters, especially outside the capital, by government officials and traditional chiefs (EIU, 2007b). One reason for the harder line against the opposition was tension between the president and his half-brother and minister of defense, Kpatcha Gnassingbe´ (referred to by some as the ‘co-president’), sparking speculation of a coup. Kpatcha represents the country’s traditionalists, based among the Kabye ethnic group, including traditional chiefs and military leaders who fear a loss of influence due to Faure’s moves toward modernization and liberalization. Kpatcha hinted that he should have been chosen as RPT leader in 2005, not Faure. Tensions died down in June when a compromise was made over unpaid taxes by a close ally of Kpatcha (EIU, 2007b). 3. Results

43,898 2,974,718 2,526,049 181,941 84.9

0 – – – –

1 – – – –

– – – – –

Source: CENI. a Nine opposition parties, including CAR, CDPA, CPP, PDR, and UFC, boycotted the 2002 election.

stated goals include democratization, modernization, attracting foreign investment, and creating jobs for Togolese workers, particularly in the public sector, such as teachers and police (Sabi, 2007). In February Olympio came to Togo from his home in Paris to attend a UFC party congress and to address a rally in Lome´. He returned in April for a national tour that kicked off with a rally in Kpalime on Togo’s independence day, and returned again in August to register as a voter and to address rallies. Because his party had not joined the unity government, it presented itself as the ‘authentic’ opposition. The UFC accused the RPT of deceiving voters, and proclaimed itself the true party of modernization and liberalization. The UFC called to attention the RPT’s history of repression, discrimination, and corruption, and promised to bring real change (Avuletey, 2007). Some observers predicted that the UFC would win a plurality of seats (EIU, 2007c), and the party declared it would not be part of any pre-election coalition formation. Press freedom, although significantly improved since 2006 (e.g. UFC press releases were carried on the official government website), was still compromised in some areas, particularly among private radio broadcasters. For example, two radio stations were shut down for a time in early 2007 for criticizing government officials (EIU, 2007a). The UFC and CAR also complained about intimidation of opposition

Voter turnout was high by historical standards. The turnout in the first multiparty presidential election in 1993 was below 40%, and in the three presidential and three legislative elections since then turnout ranged between 63% and 69%. In the October elections, turnout reached 85% (see Table 1). The number of invalid or blank votes, however, was also high (7% of votes). Following the election, the UFC lodged a number of complaints (Hennessy, 2007). It alleged that verification stamps were stolen, which resulted in the rejection of a number of votes cast for the opposition, and that there were irregularities in the counting of ballots. However, the CENI decided to count ballots without stamps, and observers said that no irregularities were large enough to affect the outcome of the vote. Most of the irregularities took place in Lome´, where 300 of 751 ballot boxes were returned to CENI without official seals. The capital’s results were therefore announced later than those for the rest of the country. The UFC called for a recount and threatened to boycott parliament before deciding to take its seats. The winner of the election was the RPT, who won 50 of 81 seats (see Table 1). Opposition parties UFC and CAR won the remainder, with 27 and 4 seats respectively. The pattern of support for the major parties was regionally very uneven. Eyadema was a member of the Kabye, Togo’s second largest ethnic group that is based in Kara, one of the three northern regions that are the RPT’s main source of support. In those three regions the party won 37 of 38 seats, compared to just one of 21 in the southern-most Maritime region. (In the Plateaux region, 24 seats were evenly split between the UFC and the RPT.) The UFC won 26 of its 27 seats in the two southern regions, where the Olympios’s Ewe ethnic group, Togo’s largest, is based. The CAR won all four of its seats in the Maritime region, three of them in Yoto prefecture, where Agboyibo topped the party’s list. 4. Aftermath On 13 November Agboyibo presented his resignation as prime minister to President Gnassingbe´, saying that, with the elections completed, his mission had been completed (Republic of Togo, 2007a). Some speculated that Gnassingbe´ was inclined to reappoint Agboyibo and continue the

Notes on Recent Elections / Electoral Studies 27 (2008) 547–577

partnership, which had worked well, but other RPT leaders felt that the party’s victory and the EU’s willingness to restore cooperation made compromise with the CAR unnecessary (L’Expression, 2007). When Agboyibo was not chosen for the top post, he resigned his parliamentary seat altogether. On 24 November Abass Bonfoh (RPT) was re-elected Speaker of Parliament. It was expected, based on a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ to distribute leadership posts, that Patrick Lawson of the UFC would be elected first vice-president, but the RPT voted largely on party lines for one of their own. In response, the UFC and CAR withdrew their candidates for the five other posts in the bureau of the National Assembly, resulting in all posts going to the RPT (Gat, 2007; Sek, 2007). Following Agboyibo’s resignation, Gnassingbe´ engaged in major talks to find a new prime minister. He met with Olympio on November 21, the first time the latter had been received in the presidential palace. The UFC said it was open to forming a government of national unity for the first time, ‘‘but not without certain conditions’’ (Republic of Togo, 2007b). Instead, Komlan Mally of the RPT was named for the top post on 3 December. The full make-up of the cabinet was announced ten days later, a cabinet dubbed by the president the ‘gouvernement d’ouverture’ (government of opening up). With 21 members, this cabinet is considerably smaller than the outgoing national unity government, which included 35 members. Like its predecessor, this cabinet is dominated by the RPT but includes members from smaller opposition parties, including Antoine Folly (UDS-Togo), who is considered to be close to the UFC, Gnininvi (CDPA) and Corne´lus Aı¨dam (CPP). Two of the cabinet ministers are women. The UFC, snubbed in both the National Assembly bureau elections and the appointment of prime minister, said that it had ‘‘no interest in participating in this government’’ (Republic of Togo, 2007c). The president retained the portfolio of Defense and Veteran Affairs, which had been held by his brother Kpatcha.


controls over 60% of the seats even though it won fewer votes than the UFC and CAR combined (39% compared to 45%). Put another way, whereas the RPT needed 18,000 votes on average to win each seat, the UFC needed 32,000 and the CAR needed 48,000. The opposition has little basis on which to complain of foul play, however, since the president of the CAR was prime minister when the new electoral code was adopted in 2007, and the UFC has been involved in the planning process since 2006. Although the UFC did complain in January 2007 that the majority but fractured opposition would be disadvantaged by the change from singlemember districts to multi-member districts with a system of highest averages, the party apparently did not foresee the problem of unbalanced district size (Avuletey, 2007). Although the election is a step forward in the democratic process, it has resulted in a step backward in power sharing. Whereas a major opposition party held the prime minister’s post in the national unity government before the election, the current government is dominated by the president’s RPT. This may tilt the balance of influence in the RPT from the modernizers to the hard-liners, particularly now that the EU has restored economic cooperation. Although the exclusion of his brother Kpatcha suggests that the president is able to follow his own course, the elections to the bureau of the National Assembly indicates that powerful elements in the RPT see more benefits from consolidation of power than from reform. Future events will reveal whether October’s free and fair election was a major step toward democracy or a one-off event. Acknowledgment The author wishes to thank Tete Kitissou for excellent research assistance for this note. References

5. Outlook Based on the active role of opposition parties in the independent electoral commission that ran the election, and the extensive monitoring by outside observers, it appears that the October elections were Togo’s first free and fair legislative elections since independence, and thus a major step forward in its progress toward democracy. The elections should also provide a boost to the country’s economy, given that they will release those aids and loans that have been blocked due to the ‘democratic deficit’ over the past 14 years. In addition to offering its own aid, the EU has suspended its opposition to an IMF poverty reduction and growth facility (PRGF), which in turn opens the way for the Paris Club to offer debt relief. Whereas in the past the RPT has won elections by banning the opposition or using violence or fraud, in this case it owes its control of the National Assembly to the allocation of seats per district. Because the northern regions receive more seats per capita than the southern seats, the RPT doi:10.1016/j.electstud.2008.03.002

Avuletey, K., 2007. L’UFC travaille re´solument pour la victoire. Interview with Jean-Pierre Fabre, Secre´taire Ge´ne´rale de l’Union des Forces de Changement (UFC). Matine´e Internationale, 002, June–July, Lome´, Togo. Economist Intelligence Unit, 1997. Country Profile – Togo, 1996–1997. Economist Intelligence Unit, 10 April 2007a. Country Report – Togo. Economist Intelligence Unit, 2 July 2007b. Country Report – Togo. Economist Intelligence Unit, 4 October 2007c. Country Report – Togo. Gat, R., November 2007. Togo: Le dialogue Faure-Gilchrest sabotage par le groupe parlementaire RPT. Le Perroquet ‘‘Ako’’ 35, 27. Lome´, Togo. Hennessy, S., 17 October 2007. Togo Opposition Disputes Vote Count. Available from: L’Expression, 27 November 2007. Le RPT est en crise, Lome´, Togo. Republic of Togo,13 November 2007a. Agboyibo a pre´sente´ sa demission Official government website. Available from: Republic of Togo, 24 November 2007b. Gnassingbe and Olympio hold talks Official government website. Available from: http:// Republic of Togo, 5 December 2007c. Opposition UFC ‘will not Participate in Togolese Government’ Official government website. Available from: Sabi, P.K., 2007. Nous allons a` ces elections pour les gagner. Interview with Esso Solitoki Magnim, Secre´taire Ge´ne´rale du Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais (RPT). Matine´e Internationale, 002, June–July, Lome´, Togo. Sek, B., December 2007. L’UFC et le CAR court-circuites a l’Assemblee nationale. Forum de la Semaine 311, 3. Lome´, Togo.