Polls in Togo 'rigged': Ghost-voters and boycotts will keep the military in power, writes Karl Maier

TOGO'S long-time military dictator, General Gnassingbe Eyadema, appeared set to sweep back into power in today's presidential elections on his campaign theme 'Playtime is over, go back to class and let's start work.'

The polls, the first since Gen Eyadema took power in a bloody coup 25 years ago, have been badly marred by boycotts by the four opposition candidates and by German and United States observers, led by former president Jimmy Carter. They and Togo's electoral commission had asked for a postponement of several days, but the government rejected the request. Yesterday Mr Carter said he had sent the US observers home because the result was foregone conclusion.

The opposition has accused the government of inflating lists of voters by 600,000 people - issuing voting cards in the names of children and dead people. The Secretary of State in charge of the elections, Boukari Tabiou, confirmed that 2.7 million people were registered to vote out of a population of 3.6 million. Diplomats and foreign observers have pointed out that since nearly half of the population in West African countries is under the voting age of 18, the 2.7 million figure is a statistical impossibility.

Togo was one of the first West African nations to move towards democratic rule in 1990 with a national conference. Hundreds have since died in political violence.

Gen Eyadema's main challengers, Edem Kodjo and Yaovi Abgoyibo, demanded a postponement of the elections until next month to permit revision of voter lists, the issuing of new voter cards, and greater access to the state- controlled media.

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