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Opposition clashes after Togo poll


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Togo
Gnassingbe Eyadema

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) -- The son of Togo's long-time military ruler won the country's first presidential election in nearly four decades with more than 60 percent of the vote, election officials announced Tuesday.

Both the declared winner of the vote, ruling party leader Faure Gnassingbe and opposition candidate Emmanuel Bob Akitani have pledged to honor the outcome of Sunday's election.

But the results prompted clashes between opposition supporters and police in Togo's capital, Lome.

"Victory has been stolen from us," one supporter said.

Opposition leaders accused the government of widespread irregularities, including the use of inflated voter lists, during Sunday's balloting.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli urged both the government and opposition to avoid violence and commit to a peaceful resolution.

He said the United States was working with diplomats from West African states and other countries to investigate reports of election irregularities.

The State Department authorized the departure of nonemergency employees at the U.S. Embassy, according to a travel warning issued Tuesday.

Sunday's vote was Togo's first presidential contest in four decades.

It followed the 38-year rule of Gnassingbe's father, Gen. Gnassingbe Eyadema, whose death in February sparked a political crisis.

Gnassingbe was appointed to the presidency after his father's death with the support of the army and the National Assembly, which changed Togo's constitution to allow him to succeed his father.

But he stepped down after strong international criticism of the appointment and the sanctions imposed by African neighbors.

Gnassingbe bills himself as a financial expert with a masters' degree from George Washington University.

Gnassingbe won with 60.2 percent of the vote, the country's electoral commission reported. Akitani received 38 percent of the vote, the commission said.

Akitani, 74, is a veteran politician who ran against the late president several times, only to be disqualified each time on technicalities.

He ran as a stand-in for exiled opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio, who had been barred from running in the election.

Regional leaders called for calm before the election.

Gnassingbe met Monday with Olympio at the invitation of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is also president of the African Union, and pledged to form a unity government if elected.

"What I want is to work with everybody in good faith," Gnassingbe said. "And we need to go from a bitter opposition to a healthy, healthier opposition."

Ereli said Washington supported efforts by the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States to establish "an inclusive government focused on national reconciliation would be a positive development."

But he said the United States was waiting for Gnassingbe's victory to be confirmed by Togo's constitutional court.

Togo's main opposition party has called on supporters to reject the results of the poll.

"We call on the people to resist," said Jean-Pierre Fabre, secretary-general of the Union of Forces for Change (UFC) party, said Tuesday.

"This regime must understand that we will never accept Mr. Faure Gnassingbe as president of the republic because neither his father, nor him, could win a normal election in Togo," Fabre told Reuters.

-- CNN Africa Correspondent Jeff Koinange and State Department Producer Elise Labott contributed to this report


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