Togo minister calls for election delay

Lome - Togo's interior minister called for Sunday's presidential poll to be postponed, saying it would be "suicidal" to hold a vote with passions running so high in the West African country.

"It is imperative that the president of the republic takes stock of the real risks on the horizon and puts an end to this suicidal electoral process," Francois Boko, minister of interior and security, said early on Friday morning.

Boko told a news conference called in the capital Lome that there should be a political transition of one to two years with an opposition leader as prime minister "to reconcile the country".

Fears of bloodshed have been growing ahead of Sunday's poll, which is meant to put an end to a constitutional crisis. At least seven people were reported killed last Saturday when rival political supporters fought with machetes and clubs in the capital.

A coalition of six opposition parties has repeatedly called for the election to be postponed, accusing the ruling party of rigging the vote. There was no immediate reaction from the opposition coalition to Boko's call for a delay.

The election is meant to choose a new leader to replace Gnassingbe Eyadema, who died in February after 38 years in office. His son, Faure Gnassingbe, is the ruling party's candidate and seen as the favourite to win.

"Passions have been exacerbated and the electoral campaign has been punctuated by violence never seen in the electoral history of our country," Boko said. "The risks of a slide into bloodshed are real."

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