November 13, 2007 / 5:48 PM / 12 years ago

Togo's UFC in parliament for first time since 1994

By John Zodzi

LOME, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Politicians from Togo’s main opposition party attended parliament for the first time in more than a decade on Tuesday, following legislative elections last month which were dominated by the ruling party.

The opposition Union of Forces for Change (UFC) took 27 of the 81 seats in the national assembly in the vote, returning it to parliament for the first time since 1994.

The UFC had boycotted previous parliamentary polls under the authoritarian presidency of Gnassingbe Eyadema, an archetypal African strongman who died in February 2005 after almost four decades in power, saying they were not free or fair.

Eyadema’s son, Faure Gnassingbe, who won elections in April 2005, last year set up a unity government headed by opposition politician Yawovi Agboyibo with the aim of reconciling the country and restoring democratic rule.

Agboyibo resigned as expected as the new parliament began work in order to make way for the formation of a new government.

"I have just handed my resignation to the head of state after the mission conferred on me to organise legislative polls," Agboyibo told state radio after meeting with Gnassingbe.

Agboyibo’s Action Committee for Renewal (CAR) won just four seats in the Oct. 14 poll, while the ruling Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) took 50 seats.

Togolese authorities hope the poll will lead to a full resumption of international aid to the West African country, which has suffered decades of authoritarian rule and periods of bloody unrest since independence in 1960.

The European Union, once Togo’s biggest donor, froze most aid to the country in 1993, citing its poor democratic record.

International election observers have said they believe the vote was broadly free, fair and transparent, but the UFC has questioned the polling process, particularly after the election commission itself reported irregularities.

The party has called for the constitutional court to investigate the vote count after the national election commission said more than half the ballot boxes in the capital had not been officially sealed and results had been recorded from polling booths which were not on official lists.

Analysts say, however, that the UFC has more to lose by boycotting the parliament than it does by taking part, even given its misgivings about the poll.

The constitutional court has made no direct comment on those allegations but has said its announcement of the results last month was final and irrevocable. (Reporting by John Zodzi; Writing by Nick Tattersall)

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