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Cablegate: Togo: New Informal Snapshot of Public Sentiment

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPC #0107/01 0561422
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251422Z FEB 10

FM AMEMBASSY LOME
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9421
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS LOME 000107

SIPDIS

SECSTATE FOR AF/W, PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PGOV TO
SUBJECT: TOGO: NEW INFORMAL SNAPSHOT OF PUBLIC SENTIMENT

REF: LOME 437

1. SUMMARY. As post personnel have traveled around Togo prior
to the March 4 presidential election, a picture has emerged
not only of the views of those closely involved with the
election, but also those who are not. Since there are no
polls in Togo, these views are largely anecdotal: gathered
in one-on-one conversations with Togolese and expatriates
from all walks of life. They give a picture of a populace
that is largely apathetic about the election and resigned
that the incumbent will win; slightly hopeful for improved
conditions in the country; eager for a non-violent election
period; and ready for the election to be concluded so that
they can get on with their lives. END SUMMARY.

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GENERAL MOOD
------------

2. Many are apathetic about the election; some even say that
they do not plan to vote. The preference is for a quick
election, as there is little expectation of change and many
are discouraged about the irresponsible behavior of
politicians in general. They are resigned to the fact the
incumbent will win and that the democratic process will take
a back seat to President Faure Gnassingbe's desire to remain
in power.

3. At the same time there is some respect for President
Faure, although he is not popular. He is a familiar figure,
and during his last five years in office economic conditions
have improved and security conditions have relaxed. Few seem
eager to test someone else's management style. Faure's slick
campaign is ever-present with its professionally produced
posters printed in France, catchy slogans, and targeted
public appearances. The campaign elicits admiration, albeit
grudging, even among opposition supporters. Some grumble that
the money spent on this lavish campaign is a waste and could
be better used to improve the general infrastructure such as
building roads. At the same time, though, the opposition
candidates are seen as disorganized, dishonest, and divided;
focused on the minutiae of election process criticism and not
on larger issues.

----------------
SECURITY MATTERS
----------------

4. The excessive, brutal and arbitrary violence of the 2005
presidential election is seared into the country's collective
memory, and no one wants it repeated. The general consensus
is that President Faure, backed by military and security
forces, is determined to maintain public order during the
election. The Presidential Election Security Force (FOSEP),
funded by the European Union and trained by the French, is
well-prepared and has clear instructions to quash any
gatherings that threaten this order. Faced with this, even
those who support the opposition are very cautious about
running the personal risk of demonstrating. They remember
that they were called to the streets in 2005 by opposition
leaders who abandoned them and even left the country when the
demonstrations turned violent. Many indicate they prefer to
keep their heads down and be very careful for a few days
before and after the election, particularly when election
results are announced. They choose instead to focus on family
and friends, improving their socio-economic status, and
staying out of trouble with the security forces.

-----------------------
SHOP NOW, BUT CAREFULLY
-----------------------

5. Families are stockpiling food and basic necessities in
case stores close. Most have spent all their January salaries
for these preparations and are hoping to be paid their
February salaries before the election. Those without the
money to stockpile are worried and are borrowing money from
friends. Business people are anxious, though, as the purchase
of non-essential items is delayed. Sales are down, the port
of Lome is quiet after a Christmas period surge, and
customers who can--both wholesale and retail--are avoiding
Lome during the election period.

-----------
STAY OR GO?
-----------

6. Although some Togolese are hopping the border to stay with
extended family during the election period, most are simply
staying put. Public schools plan to remain open but are
rushing through their curriculums in case they must close.
The expected surge in demand for U.S. and Schengen visas--the
two most popular--did not occur. By contrast, through, many
U.S. and European expatriates, primarily those who are not
also citizens of Togo, are choosing the election time to
vacation abroad. Since some of the 2005 violence targeted
French and German property, businessmen whose companies are
loathe to risk a repeat are sending their expatriates out of
the country, other expatriates are leaving temporarily on
their own. The American International School and the French
lycee in Lome have adjusted vacation schedules to
accommodate this exodus. However, the British school is
remaining open.


7. COMMENT. The Togolese are resigned and apathetic largely
because they do not believe that transparent and free
elections are possible in Togo. They also remember the 2005
election violence and do not want a repeat. Most people think
that the election will be generally peaceful; however, there
is a slight possibility of violence. The government is
willing to use force to stop open dissent before it gathers
strength, and there may be dissent from certain radical
organizations such as the opposition's Citizens' Movement for
Change (MCA) and the ruling party's Group for the Support of
the Party (GRAP) (reftel). Overall, though, the populace's
lack of enthusiasm for change is feeding into the ruling
party's probable victory. END COMMENT.
Hawkins

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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