Citizens of West African country Togo went to the polls Saturday in an election widely expected to see President Faure Gnassingbe claim a 4th term in power.
The incumbent, 53, has led the country of eight million since 2005 following the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled with an iron fist for 38 years.
In Lome, some voters were out early to cast their vote in the hope the election may bring much-needed change.
“We suffer too much in Togo, this time it has to change,” said Eric, a driver in his 30s, near a voting centre.
“I am not going to tell you who I will vote for, but this time we don’t want to be cheated of victory,” he said, adding that he would return in the evening to watch over the counting after polls close at 1600 GMT.
Elsewhere, ruling party supporter Balakebawi Agbang urged people “to turn out in force to make the right choice” so the government can continue its work, AFP reports.
The authorities faced major protests in 2017 and 2018 demanding an end to five decades of a dynastic rule that have failed to lift many out of poverty.
But the demonstrations petered out in the face of government repression and squabbles among the opposition.
Last year, Gnassingbe pushed through constitutional changes allowing him to run again — and potentially remain in office until 2030.
The current president has sought to distance himself from his father but his regime still maintains a stranglehold over the country and its financial resources.
“I don’t feel like a dictator,” Gnassingbe told AFP in an interview.