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Togo court rules opposition candidate ineligible for presidential election

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Togo [official website, in French] ruled Tuesday that presidential candidate Kofi Yamgnane [campaign website, in French] is not eliglble to run in the February 28 election. Yamgnane was to face incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe [official profile, in French; BBC profile] of the ruling Rally of the Togolese People (RTP) [party website, in French] party. The court rejected Yamgnane's bid over inconsistent records of his date of birth and conflicting immigration documents. Holding dual citizenship in France and Togo, Yamgnane's French documents show his date of birth to be October 11, 1945, while his Togolese documents show him to be born on December 31, 1945. Yamgnane asserts that the decision is a pretext to eliminate the most dangerous candidate to the ruling RTP party. Yamgnane is unable to appeal the final decision of the constitutional court. The court has accepted the eligibility of seven other candidates to run for president, including Gnassingbe.

Gnassingbe took office [JURIST report] in February 2005 immediately following the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema [BBC obituary], who was president of Togo for 38 years and one of the country's longest serving leaders. Gnassingbe's unconstitutional succession to office [JURIST report] was met with international outcry. The Togo National Assembly [official website, in French] subsequently elected him as speaker, entitling him to his already appointed post of president, and further modified the constitution to remove the need for interim elections, allowing Gnassingbe to serve out his father's term until 2008. Later, Gnassingbe announced that he would hold elections [JURIST report] as required by the original Togolese constitution. As pressure mounted for Togo to hold democratic elections, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) [official website] member countries imposed sanctions against Togo, and the National Assembly re-amended the country's constitution [JURIST reports] so that presidential elections could be held within 60 days. African leaders later lifted sanctions against Togo following Gnassingbe's resignation [JURIST report]. Togo's Parliament then named Abass Bonfoh, a member of the ruling party, as acting president. In May 2005 Togo's constitutional court confirmed Faure Gnassingbe as the official winner of the disputed presidential election [JURIST reports].

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