DR Congo Set For Fresh Protests Over Appointment Of Top Election Official

Motorcyclists drive past a barricade in the road at the Kinshasa Grand market on June 9, 2020, during a demonstration where demonstrators ask for the re-opening of the shops around there which has been closed by the government as a precautionary measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (Photo by ARSENE MPIANA / AFP)

 

Political parties and campaign groups in DR Congo have vowed to carry out a wave of protests over the proposed head of the country’s election panel.

Anger has been triggered by plans to name a figure accused by the opposition of helping former president Joseph Kabila to rig past elections.

An opposition coalition called Lamuka on Tuesday called for nationwide demonstrations for July 13, with “strict observance” of coronavirus precautions.

This will be preceded on Thursday by a march in the capital Kinshasa, which President Felix Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Progress (UDPS) announced earlier this week.

Meanwhile, the Lay Coordination Committee (CLC), which is close to the powerful Catholic church, has called for a “great peaceful protest march” in major cities on July 19, along with other grassroots groups.

The CLC staged a march last Saturday that drew several hundred supporters before it was dispersed by police on its arrival outside parliament.

The demonstrations have been triggered by a decision by the National Assembly, which is dominated by Kabila supporters, to appoint Ronsard Malonda as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI).

Malonda, currently CENI’s secretary-general, is accused by Lamuka of “abetting every stolen election since 2006”.

The protests have been scheduled while Tshisekedi has still to approve Malonda’s appointment.

The largest country in sub-Saharan Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo has been notoriously volatile since it gained independence from Belgium 60 years ago this month.

Tshisekedi took office in January 2019 in the country’s first-ever peaceful political transition.

But he did so after elections roiled by accusations that the results were rigged to deny Tshisekedi’s rival, Martin Fayulu, of victory.

Tshisekedi has to govern in coalition with supporters of his predecessor Kabila, who have a huge majority in parliament.

Kabila stepped down after 18 years in power and still wields influence behind the scenes.

The coalition was rocked last month over judicial reforms put forward by Kabila allies that would define the powers of judges — a move that critics say is a ploy to muzzle the judiciary.

The country has declared a “state of emergency” to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The measures, which were extended for an additional 15 days on Monday, include a ban on gatherings of more than 20 people.

 

AFP

Ekweremadu Blames Nigeria’s Electoral Problems On Non-Implementation Of Laws

Former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, speaks on YIAGA’s Town Hall meeting on on ‘Fixing Nigerian elections’ in Abuja on June 30, 2020.

 

The former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu has blamed Nigeria’s electoral problems on the non-implementation of the existing laws.

Speaking on Tuesday during a town hall meeting with the theme ‘Fixing Nigerian elections’ which was organised by YIAGA, the lawmaker regretted that much efforts have not been done to implement the nation’s electoral laws.

According to him, the nation has sufficient laws to handle the electoral affairs.

“I think the greatest problem is the implementation of laws. We have sufficient laws regarding our elections and electoral management,” he said.

Speaking further, Ekweremadu regretted that electoral reforms and democratic practices in Nigeria were stopped for about 35 years.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Yet To Fully Embrace Democracy, Says Bishop Kukah

This is because the last major election in the country was held in 1964 shortly before the outbreak of the civil war in 1967.

He explained that the elections held in 1999 weren’t so perfect following the long absence of polls conducted in the country.

“Going back to history, you will recall that the last major election we had before the civil war was in 1964. Thereafter, we had the queue and there was civil war.

“We didn’t have democratic practice and that means that the electoral reforms, electoral practices were stopped for about 35 years until 1999.

“The implication is that a lot happened, just like if you park your car for 35 years and want to start the car, obviously you are going to have a lot of problems. In 1999, we had elections that were not very perfect because of the time lag we have had between 1964 and 1979,” he said.

INEC Is Committed To Introducing Electronic Balloting For Anambra Elections Next Year – Mahmood

INEC Chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun/Channels Television June 30, 2020

 

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, has said that the commission remains committed to improving electoral processes in the country.

According to him, one of the things it plans to implement in the coming year is the introduction of electronic balloting.

Yakubu said the commission intends to introduce this during the Anambra elections, taking place in 2021.

“The commission is committed to introducing at least electronic balloting in the major election we are going to conduct next year, which happens to be the Anambra governorship election and thereafter, with the support of the National Assembly, we hope that the legal environment will improve such that we can also go ahead to collate and transmit results electronically”.

The INEC boss said this on Tuesday during a town hall meeting tagged Fixing Nigerian Elections, adding that “at present, the law doesn’t permit that because the system is essentially manual”.

He made the comments while responding to a question about what he would like to improve about the electoral system in the country.

“There are quite a number of issues, one of which is the deployment of technology,” the INEC boss said.

“We would like a situation where the electoral legal environment is reformed in such a manner that will continue to deepen the deployment of technology in elections.

“I am happy with what the commission has done since 2010. Recall that there is a trajectory. We started in 2010 with the biometric register of voters and so in 2011, the Commission essentially updated the biometric register and we did the same thing in 2014 and in 2017 and in 2018 over a period of 16 months in which we added 14.2 million Nigerians to the register.

“The second is biometric accreditation of voters and there was an innovation introduced in 2015, the smart card readers that go along with the permanent voters’ card.

“We have achieved that. We are looking forward (particularly with the 2015 amendment) to the electoral Act that empowers the commission to deepen the use of technology, in voting, particularly in the era of electronic voting, to see how far we can go a notch higher,” he added.

Nigeria Yet To Fully Embrace Democracy, Says Bishop Kukah

Atiku Was Invited For Peace Accord Signing, Says Kukah
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah

 

The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah, says Nigeria is yet to fully embrace democratic norms and values.

He disclosed this on Tuesday during a townhall meeting on ‘Fixing Nigerian elections’ which was organised by YIAGA.

According to him, the military intervention in the nation’s politics has made the system to be so quarrelsome.

Kukah berated the judiciary for undermining the wishes of the people while hearing cases relating to elections.

READ ALSO: 774,000 Jobs: Drama As Senators Walk Keyamo Out Of Meeting

“We are mistaken in assuming that we have had a transition from dictatorship to democracy. We still haven’t.

“This is why we are showing all kinds of systemic malfunctioning. When we talk about political parties, we have assumptions. The truth of the matter is that in our own case, in Nigeria, we have the greed and the political interest.

“Clearly what we have in Nigeria, as we have seen with the occasional malfunctioning of the system midway through the journey, manifested in the quarrelsomeness nature of the process and the way the judiciary has now come to undermine the wishes of the people,” he said.

Speaking further, the cleric called on political parties to imbibe discipline while fielding candidate for public offices.

He regretted that most politicians lack the needed discipline expected of political parties, adding that it has reflected in lack of continuity and consistency in governance.

Uganda Plans Elections In Early 2021 But No Rallies

A file photo of Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni
A file photo of Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni

 

Uganda’s election commission on Tuesday published a roadmap for presidential and legislative elections in early 2021, assuaging fears the coronavirus pandemic would force a delay.

But a plan to ban rallies and gatherings during the campaign drew a rebuke from a leading opposition politician, who said it was designed to favour longtime President Yoweri Museveni.

A calendar posted on the commission’s Twitter account Tuesday called for voting to take place between January 10 and February 8 next year, with “exact polling dates to be appointed in due course”.

That timeline is in line with the constitution.

In an interview with a private television station last month, Museveni, in power since 1986, had seemed to raise the possibility of a delay, saying it would be “madness to continue with elections when the virus is around”.

Uganda has officially recorded 724 COVID-19 cases and no deaths.

“The elections will go ahead as planned. This will be early January and February next year,” Justice Simon Mugenyi Byabakama, the election commission chairman, told AFP Tuesday.

“There were fears that the elections will be postponed due to COVID-19, but the constitution demands that we must hold the polls at a specific time and we can’t do away with that,” he said.

But Mugenyi also said there would be “no mass rallies and public gatherings” and that candidates would “use the media such as radios and TVs to campaign”.

Opposition leader Bobi Wine, a popular singer whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, said those rules would place an undue burden on opposition politicians who struggle to secure media access.

“The roadmap makes it harder for opposition voices to be heard,” Wine told AFP.

“Whenever we show up at radio stations, we are stopped by the police from going on air. The same thing will happen this time and the airwaves will be used by Museveni and his supporters to campaign,” he said.

Wine, who has been subject to repeated arrests, is expected to run against Museveni, who would be seeking a sixth term.

Edo, Ondo Elections: Falana Calls For Maximum Security To Douse Tension

Mr Femi Falana

 

Human Rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Femi Falana, has called for maximum security in Edo and Ondo states.

Falana made this call on Wednesday during the Citizens’ Townhall on Voting Amidst COVID-19 ahead of the September 19 governorship elections in the two states.

He noted that the move is necessary in order to douse the tensions that may arise as campaigns will soon begin.

The senior lawyer argued that unlike the local council polls in Cross River and Benue States where the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) swept all the seats, the governorship elections on September 19 will draw opposition parties participating in the exercise.

“You had a Local Government election in Cross River State and Benue State last Saturday, the opposition did not participate because the opposition would have wasted its funds by participating.

“In Cross River State, for instance, the 18 Chairmanship seats were won by the PDP while the 196 Councillorship seats were won by the ruling party.

“Ditto for Benue where 23 chairmanship seats were won by the PDP and of course the 276 councillorship seats were won by the ruling party, but it is going to be different in Ondo and Edo states where you are talking of opposition political parties slugging it out with the ruling political party.

“So tensions will be high, you will need maximum security to guarantee law and order in both states and then monitor some of the political leaders in those two states,” he said.

Falana also predicted a low turnout of voters on the Election Day, asking the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to provide facemasks to electorates who may not be able to afford it in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Benue Insists On Conducting Chairmanship, Councillorship Elections Amid COVID-19

 

The Benue State Independent Electoral Commission, insists it will go ahead to conduct elections into chairmanship and councillorship positions tomorrow May 30, in spite of the coronavirus pandemic which has crippled major activities across the world.

Speaking exclusively to Channels Television in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, chairman of the state electoral body, Mr Loko Tersoo Joseph noted that preventive measures such as physical distancing of 1.5 meters will be kept between each voter, while washing of hands with soap and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers will be encouraged.

Read Also: Nigeria Records 182 New Cases Of COVID-19, Total Infections Hit 8,915

The election was initially billed for November 2019 but was shifted due to logistics issues, only for the coronavirus to further complicate things.

Currently, the total number of infections in the country has risen to 8,915, out of which 2,592 have recovered while 259 have died.

Of all 36 states, Benue, however, has one of the least number of infections with seven infections.

INEC Approves Policy To Conduct Elections Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

A file photo of INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, addressing a press conference in Abuja. Photo: Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has approved a policy to conduct elections despite the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country.

INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, announced this in a statement on Thursday.

He disclosed that the strategy tagged “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic” would be released on Monday next week.

Okoye explained that the policy would enable INEC officials and staff to handle the challenges of conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added that it would provide a guide for engagement with various stakeholders as they prepare for the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, as well as some bye-elections.

According to the INEC spokesperson, the commission is committed to conducting all elections that are due within the extant legal framework.

He, however, noted that the electoral umpire would put a premium on public safety and mitigation of health risks from coronavirus.

The commission had earlier announced that it would not postpone the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States scheduled for September 19 and October 10, 2020 respectively.

Read the full statement below:

INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION

PRESS RELEASE

POLICY ON CONDUCTING ELECTIONS IN THE CONTEXT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) met today, 21st May 2020, and approved its “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic”.

The general purpose of the Policy is to enable officials and staff of the Commission to understand and respond adequately to the challenges of conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide a guide for engagement with stakeholders as they prepare for elections.

The clean copy of the policy document, which will be released on Monday 25th May 2020, covers health and legal issues, election planning and operations, election day and post-election activities, voter registration, political parties, election observation, electoral security and deployment of technology.

Conducting elections in a pandemic such as COVID-19 is yet uncharted waters. Only very few jurisdictions have any experience with this.

That notwithstanding, the Commission is committed to conducting all elections that are due within the extant legal framework. However, in so doing it will put a premium on public safety and mitigation of health risks from COVID-19.

Citizens must be assured that they will be safe while participating as voters, candidates, and officials.

The Commission remains committed to raising public confidence in the electoral process in spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic and to regularly communicate its actions and challenges to the public.

 

STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENTS

In view of the end of tenure Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States scheduled for 19th September 2020 and 10th October 2020 respectively, the Commission will flag off robust engagements with its critical stakeholders to present the Policy Document. To this end, the Commission will meet with:

Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) on Saturday, 30th May 2020;

Political Parties on Monday, 1st June 2020;

Civil Society Groups on 2nd June 2020; and

The Media on 3rd June 2020.

 

CONDUCT OF BYE-ELECTIONS

It is to be noted that in addition to the Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, the Commission has received official declaration of vacancies for 4 Senatorial Districts and read reports of the passing of a Senator and 4 members of some State Houses of Assembly.

As at today, the Commission is planning for nine (9) bye-elections across seven (7) States of the Federation as follows:

Bayelsa Central Senatorial District

Bayelsa West Senatorial District

Imo North Senatorial District

Plateau South Senatorial District

Cross River North Senatorial District

Nganzai State Constituency, Borno State

Bayo State Constituency, Borno State

Nasarawa Central State Constituency, Nasarawa State

Bakori State Constituency, Katsina State

 

The provisions of the Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic shall also apply to the conduct of these elections.

In conclusion, the Commission urges all Nigerians to adhere strictly to the COVID-19 protocols issued by the health authorities.

Festus Okoye Esq.

National Commissioner and Chairman,

Information and Voter Education Committee

21st May 2020.

Burundians Vote Despite COVID-19 Outbreak

A supporter holds a picture of Agathon Rwasa, presidential candidate of the main opposition party the National Congress for Liberty (CNL), during the last day of the campaign in Gitega, central Burundi, on May 17, 2020. AFP

 

Tense elections to replace Burundi’s long-ruling president got underway on Wednesday despite a coronavirus outbreak that the East African nation has largely ignored.

The vote comes after five years of turmoil sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, which unleashed unrest that left at least 1,200 dead and saw 400,000 flee the country.

Burundians stood in long lines outside polling stations, which opened shortly after six a.m. (0400 GMT).

Just before voting started, social networks were cut off except for access by virtual private network.

More than five million registered voters are being asked to choose between Nkurunziza’s hand-picked heir and frontrunner, 52-year-old general Evariste Ndayishimiye, the main opposition competitor Agathon Rwasa, and five other candidates.

Elections are also being held for parliamentarians and local councillors, who in turn appoint the members of the Senate.

“I am happy to vote for the candidate of my choice today, even if I am afraid of what is happening because social networks were cut,” said primary school teacher Patrice, 30, who voted in northern Ngozi.

“It is important because after 15 years of Nkurunziza, it is time for change. He did good and bad things…. today I want (Rwasa’s) CNL to win because the country needs new blood”.

READ ALSO: UN Chief Antonio Guterres Praises Africa’s Efforts To Stem COVID-19

However ruling party supporter Gertrude, who voted in central Mwaro province, said she would vote for Ndayishimiye “so that he can continue the legacy of our president Pierre Nkurunziza… and beat poverty”.

Burundi has a long history of ethnic violence between its Hutu and Tutsi communities and saw several presidents assassinated or ousted after independence from Belgium in 1962.

It is listed by the World Bank as one of the three poorest countries in the world.

The onset of turmoil in 2015 worsened the situation for many, as traditional donors cut ties.

There then followed two years of recession followed by paltry growth, and the economy now faces potential fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

– ‘Divine protection’ –

Unlike Ethiopia, which in March postponed its August general elections because of the virus risk, Burundi pushed ahead with the vote.

It has not imposed any movement restrictions on its 11 million people, as other countries in East Africa have done, and large crowds gathered at campaign rallies.

Ndayishimiye and other officials have insisted God is protecting Burundi.

Only 42 cases and one death have officially been recorded.

However, doctors accuse the government of minimising the scale of the outbreak and residents of Bujumbura have told AFP of mysterious deaths from respiratory problems and fever.

– Clash of Hutu rebel leaders –

The campaign was marked by violence and arbitrary arrests — the kind that has persisted in the shadows since the 2015 poll — and observers expected a bitter contest between the two frontrunners.

Ndayishimiye is a party veteran who like Nkurunziza, fought for the ethnic Hutu rebellion during the country’s 1993-2006 civil war with the minority Tutsi-dominated army. The war left some 300,000 dead.

Rwasa, 56, was a leader of the oldest ethnic Hutu rebel movement, the Palipehutu-FNL, one of the two biggest armed opposition groups in the war.

In the eyes of the majority Hutu — 85 percent of the population — Rwasa has as much legitimacy as a presidential candidate as his rival.

“The people won’t let their victory be stolen,” warned Rwasa, after the ruling party made clear it expected no other outcome than a resounding win.

Nkurunziza’s decision to step aside came as a surprise after constitutional changes in 2018 opened the possibility for him to stay in office until 2034.

In January legislators passed a law offering a golden parachute to outgoing presidents, including a luxury villa and a one-off sum equivalent to more than half a million dollars.

The outgoing president, who has ruled for 15 years, was in February named the “supreme guide for patriotism” and he is expected to retain an influential role if the ruling CNDD-FDD stays in power.

While Ndayishimiye is considered the frontrunner, observers highlight the massive crowds mobilised by Rwasa during his campaign.

“There is a phenomenon of despair, a feeling of ‘anything but the CNDD-FDD’, and Rwasa is riding this wave,” said International Crisis Group (ICG) expert Onesphore Sematumba.

The government has refused any observers from the UN or the African Union, accusing the latter of being too close to the opposition.

Polls close at 1400 GMT, with results expected by next Monday or Tuesday.

AFP

Benin Votes In Controversial Poll Despite COVID-19

Benin President Patrice Talon casts his ballot at the Charles Guiyot Zongo public school on May 17, 2020, as voting operation are underway for the local election. Yanick Folly / AFP.

 

Benin staged local elections minus key opposition parties on Sunday with authorities pushing ahead despite the coronavirus threat and calls for a delay.

The West African nation of 11 million this week lifted a raft of restrictions aimed at halting the spread of the virus. COVID-19 has caused 339 confirmed infections and two deaths in the country.

The autonomous national election commission (CENA) made face masks mandatory for voters and enforced social distancing measures at polling stations.

“We have received a lot of hydro-alcohol gels and masks for all voters,” returning officer Mathieu Daki told AFP at N’dali in the north of the country.

In the economic capital Cotonou where most coronavirus deaths have occurred, election officials ensured voters were more than a metre apart.

However, not everyone appeared to have been reassured.

In the city’s 5th district election agent Dimitri Assani admitted voters were “few and far between”.

Donatien Sagbo Hounga wore a mask to enter the polling station, but said he was waiting “till there were no other voters in front of the election agents” to move forward to cast his vote.

“It may seem excessive but it’s necessary,” Hounga said.

Campaigning has been limited to posters and media appearances as candidates were forced to call off rallies due to a ban on gatherings of over 50 people.

– Voters ‘few and far between’ –

Critics warned the health risks were too high for a vote that opponents of President Patrice Talon insist should not be happening in the first place.

Talon sported a mask when he voted early in Cotonou’s Zongo-Ehuzu area.

In the city’s first district Arnold Migan voted early in the morning. “With the threat from COVID-19 it’s best to vote quickly and go home before a lot of people arrive,” he said.

Benin, seen as one of the region’s most stable democracies, has been in political crisis since a disputed parliamentary poll last April sparked protests.

READ ALSO: Madagascar Records First COVID-19 Death

Talon, a former business magnate who came to power in 2016, has been accused of a crackdown that drove key rivals into exile.

Parties allied to the president won all the seats at the polls last year after opposition groups were effectively banned from standing but turnout was only 25 percent.

Now leading opposition parties again find themselves barred from the vote for control of 77 councils across the country.

The exclusion drew a legal challenge from Talon opponent Sebastien Ajavon, a businessman living in exile after he was sentenced to prison on drug charges in Benin.

The regional African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights ruled the vote should be suspended as it was not inclusive.

But Benin disregarded the ruling and severed some ties with the court in protest at the decision.

Opponents called on voters to boycott the poll over the political situation and the risks from coronavirus.

Many among the electorate appeared set to heed the call to stay home given the result looks certain to go in favour of those backing Talon.

In Cotonou’s Cadjehoun area only about 30 people had voted by midday out of 400 registered there.

Final results from the election are expected within a week.

AFP

Mali Records First Coronavirus Death Hours Before Election

A street vendor sells sunglasses and masks in front of a supermarket of Bamako on March 26, 2020.
A street vendor sells sunglasses and masks in front of a supermarket of Bamako on March 26, 2020. – The price of masks, gloves and sanitising gel has increased as supplies have dropped significantly after the first positive cases of COVID-19 coronavirus was reported this week in Mali. (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

 

 

Mali recorded its first coronavirus death on Saturday, a day before the West African country voted in a long-delayed parliamentary election threatened by both the pandemic and security concerns.

The kidnapping of the leader of the main opposition party earlier in the week has also cast a pall over the vote, with a security source saying he is “likely” in the hands of a jihadist group.

Several opposition parties on Saturday called for the vote to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen 18 people test positive since the country’s first case was diagnosed on Wednesday.

Health Minister Michel Sidibe said late Saturday — just hours before polls opened the following day — that a patient who had tested positive had died earlier in the day.

“We have a death today,” he said, “because the virus was in his lungs.”

Though sub-Saharan Mali has had relatively few cases so far compared to other continents, the impoverished nation of some 19 million people — where large swathes of territory lie outside state control — is just the kind of state experts fear is particularly vulnerable.

– Jihadist recordings claim abduction –
In an unprecedented and shocking twist just days before the vote, veteran opposition leader Soumaila Cisse was kidnapped while campaigning in the conflict-ravaged centre of the country.

Cisse, 70, who has come second in three presidential elections, and six members of his team were abducted on Wednesday in an attack in which his bodyguard was killed.

“According to our information, the opposition leader was likely kidnapped by jihadists from central Mali claiming to be from Amadou Koufa,” a security source said.

Fulani preacher Amadou Koufa leads the Katiba Macina jihadist militia, a branch of the al-Qaeda-aligned Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) group active in central Mali.

Cisse and his entourage are probably now “far from where they were abducted,” the security source told AFP.

A source close to Cisse also said the opposition leader was in the hands of the Koufa’s Katiba Macina.

“Not only do we have clear indications from our own sources, but there are also recordings broadcast by the jihadists,” the source said.

Since the abduction, recordings seen by an AFP reporter have circulated on social media in the Fulani and Songhai languages spoken in central and northern Mali of men declaring loyalty to Koufa claiming Cisse’s abduction.

– ‘Difficult times’ –
Despite the deepening COVID-19 crisis, Cisse’s Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) urged its supporters to turn out in even greater numbers.

“In these difficult times our country is going through, more than ever, the party’s activists are resolutely urged to redouble their efforts for a massive participation in the March 29, 2020 elections,” the country’s main opposition party said Saturday.

But other opposition parties — the National Congress of Democratic Initiative (CNID), Patriotic Movement for Renewal (MRP) and the CMAS movement of influential imam Mahmoud Dicko — called for the vote to be postponed due to the coronavirus emergency.

Three candidates also withdrew from the poll, which will see new MPs elected to the 147-seat National Assembly for the first time since 2013.

The current parliament, which is dominated by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s party — Cisse’s URD has 18 MPs — was supposed to wrap up in late 2018, but subsequent elections were postponed, mostly over security concerns.

Voters will be supplied with hand-washing kits and masks at Sunday’s elections, as well being made to keep separate from each other, the government has said.

After Sunday’s first round vote, a second round is scheduled for April 19.

In neighbouring Mauritania, the government announced Saturday that travel between regions would be banned from noon on Sunday. The vast Sahel country also confirmed two more coronavirus cases, bringing its total to five.

-AFP

Togo Court Confirms President’s Election Victory

A police Armoured Personnel Carrier is parked in front of a campaign billboard for President Faure Gnassingbe, candidate of the ruling Union for the Republic (UNIR) party, and winner of the just concluded presidential election in Lome, on February 24, 2020. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
A police Armoured Personnel Carrier is parked in front of a campaign billboard for President Faure Gnassingbe, candidate of the ruling Union for the Republic (UNIR) party, and winner of the just concluded presidential election in Lome, on February 24, 2020. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

Togo’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday rejected opposition claims of electoral fraud and declared Faure Gnassingbe the winner with more than 70 percent of the February vote and president for a fourth term.

In the final tally, the incumbent garnered 70.78 percent of the ballots while opposition leader and former prime minister Agbeyome Kodjodes took 19.46 percent, the court said

“Having obtained the absolute majority of votes in the first round of the ballot, Mr Faure Gnassingbe has to be declared elected president of the Republic,” announced Aboudou Assouma, president of the court.

A petition filed by Kodjo, who heads the Movement of Patriots for Democracy and Development, was annulled by the court which found it “lacked evidence likely to support the allegations.”

“I dispute with all my strength these results,” Kodjo, who had declared himself the winner before provisional results were released, told AFP.

“I consider that I am the legitimate victor in this election. I will continue to claim my victory,” he added.

The former prime minister, alleged “serious irregularities” in voting, including ballot stuffing and the use of fake polling stations.

Togo’s bishops, who back Kodjo’s movement, on Monday put out a statement critical of the election noting it took place “in a relatively calm climate” but “as far as transparency and fairness go the same cannot be said”.

Neither colonial power France nor the European Union has commented on the outcome of the ballot which keeps the Gnassingbe dynasty in power for more than half a century.

The United States voiced concern over the limited checks on voting and urged the Electoral Commission to publish results polling station by polling station for greater transparency.

Some 300 international observers were deployed, mainly from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union, with many African states supporting the incumbent.

Gnassingbe, 53, has led the country of eight million people since taking over in 2005 following the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled with an iron fist for 38 years.

The electoral commission said turnout was over 76 percent. Gnassingbe’s tally was by far the biggest of all the successive elections he has won.

The president has insisted his continuing rule for five more years was central to ensuring security in Togo and preventing jihadist violence spilling over from Burkina Faso to the north.

 

AFP