Togo President Faure Gnassingbe has won a fourth term in power, the national electoral commission declared on Monday, as his main rival accused authorities of fraud.
The incumbent leader took 72 percent of the vote share in the first round of the presidential election, the commission said, far ahead of former prime minister Agbeyome Kodjo, with 18 percent.
The widely expected win extends more than a half century of dynastic rule over the former French colony by Gnassingbe’s family despite broad disillusionment over its failure to drag many out of poverty.
Gnassingbe 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.
In May, he oversaw an overhaul of the constitution that allowed him to run this year — and potentially remain in office until 2030.
Gilbert Barawa, minister of public functions and a strong supporter of the president, described the result as “an unprecedented score” for the president, who was elected with 58 percent of the vote five years ago.
“Faure Gnassingbe has made a great breakthrough in formerly difficult areas,” he said.
Hours before the official results were announced, Kodjo, who was prime minister under Gnassingbe’s father, had declared his own victory as “democratically elected president” with between 57 and 61 percent of the vote.
He promised to form his own “inclusive government in the coming days”, accusing authorities of using ballot stuffing and fake polling stations to skew the results in the incumbent’s favour.
Kodjo had emerged as a dark horse challenger in the race after winning the backing of an influential former Catholic archbishop.
– Stability and security –
The authorities banned hundreds of local observers from monitoring Saturday’s election and cancelled the system of electronic security at the last moment.
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.
Six opposition challengers had suggested they would unite against Gnassingbe if he failed to win an outright majority and the election had proceeded to a second round.
In 2017 and 2018, Togolese authorities faced major protests demanding an end to the family’s five-decade rule.
Despite economic growth of around five percent, around half of Togo lives on less than $1.90 per day.
But the demonstrations faded in the face of government repression and squabbles among the opposition.
Stability and security were central to the president’s message as jihadist violence rocks northern neighbour Burkina Faso.
Togo has so far managed to prevent the bloodshed spilling over and its army and intelligence service are considered to be among the most effective in the region.