Political parties in Togo were considerably more active and competitive before independence than after, and from 1969 till the legalization of opposition parties in 1991, Togo was a one-party state. In the first Territorial Assembly elections in 1946, there were two parties, the Committee of Togolese Unity (Comité de l'Unité Togolaise—CUT) and the Togolese Party for Progress (Parti Togolais du Progrès—PTP). The CUT was overwhelmingly successful, and Sylvanus Olympio, the CUT leader and Assembly president, campaigned for Ewe reunification. The CUT controlled all Assembly seats from 1946 to 1952. In the 1952 elections, however, the CUT was defeated, and it refused to participate in further elections because it claimed that the PTP was receiving French support. In the territorial elections of 1955, the PTP won all 30 Assembly seats, and when Togo was given autonomy in 1956, Nicolas Grunitzky, PTP leader, became prime minister.
In the UN-supervised elections of April 1958, the CUT regained power with a demand for independence from France, while the PTP and the Union of Chiefs and Peoples of the North (Union des Chefs et des Populations du Nord—UCPN) advocated that Togo remain an autonomous republic within the French Union. The two defeated parties merged in October 1959 to form the Togolese People's Democratic Union (Union Démocratique des Populations Togolaises—UDPT), under Grunitzky's leadership.
In March 1961, the National Assembly enacted legislation that based elections to the Assembly on a party-list system, with a single ballot in which a majority would be decisive. In the April 1961 elections, which were held on this single-list system, candidates from the alliance of the UDPT and the Togolese Youth Movement (Mouvement de la Jeunesse Togolaise—Juvento) were prevented from registering and were not permitted on the ballot. Consequently, the new Assembly consisted entirely of CUT members.
After Olympio (who had become president in 1960) was assassinated by military insurgents, Grunitzky, who was living in exile in Benin (then Dahomey), was invited back to Togo to form a provisional government. Grunitzky announced that free elections would be held, but in fact the delegates of the four leading parties—UDPT, Juvento, the Togolese Unity Movement (Unité Togolaise, formed from the CUT after Olympio's assassination), and the Togolese Popular Movement (Mouvement Populaire Togolais)—as well as the insurgents' Committee of Vigilance, agreed on a single national union list of candidates. In the elections of 5 May 1963, Grunitzky became president and Antoine Meatchi vice-president; a new 56-member Assembly was elected; and a new constitution was approved by national referendum. In early 1967, however, Grunitzky was deposed, and a military regime took power, with no constitution and no legislature.
Organized political activity was suspended until 1969, when the Togolese People's Rally (Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais—RPT) was founded as the nation's sole legal political party. President Éyadéma heads the RPT, which has a Central Committee and a Political Bureau. In the 1979 and 1985 legislative elections, all candidates were nominated by the RPT. In the 1994 legislative elections, however, other parties participated.
Political opposition to Éyadéma has become bolder since late 1990. For years, an anti-Éyadéma group, the Togolese Movement for Democracy (Mouvement Togolais pour la Démocratie), functioned in exile from Paris. After opposition parties were legalized on 12 April 1991, and especially after the National Conference engineered a governmental change in August 1991, other parties began to function, albeit in an atmosphere of threat from the armed forces and pro-Éyadéma gangs. Among the country's parties as of 1996 were the Coordination des Forces Nouvelles (CFN), Rally of the Togolese People (RPT), Togolese Union for Democracy (UTD), Action Committee for Renewal (CAR), Union for Democracy and Solidarity (UDS), Pan-African Sociodemocrats Group (GSP—an alliance of three radical parties: CDPA—Democratic Convention of African Peoples, PDR–Party for Democracy and Renewal, and PSP—Pan-African Social Party), Union of Forces for Change (UFC), and Union of Justice and Democracy (UJD).
All major opposition parties boycotted the 1993 elections, delaying elections until February 1994. The winners distributed the seats as follows: CAR 36, RPT 35, UTD 7, UJD 2, CFN 1. However, as a result of defections from the CAR to the RPT and the merging of the UJD with the RPT, representation in the National Assembly in August 1997 was RPT 42, CAR 32, UTD 5, CFN 1, independent 1, giving Eyadema's party a narrow majority.
The next legislative elections were scheduled to be held in 1998, but disagreements between the divided opposition and the RPT delayed them, and thwarted efforts to achieve a national consensus on how the elections were to be conducted. The opposition boycotted them in March 1999 to protest the alleged cheating by Éyadéma and his supporters in the June 1998 presidential election. Progress was made in defining the role of the national electoral commission (CENI), and by April 2000, the two sides had agreed to return to the table to discuss endorsement of an electoral bill, and related issues pertaining to national reconciliation. Legislative elections were delayed throughout 2000, 2001, and early 2002; they were finally held on 27 October 2002. The elections were judged to be democratic and transparent by international election observers. The two main opposition parties, the UFC and the CAR, grouped as the Coalition of Democratic Forces (CFD), boycotted the elections, and the RPT emerged with 72 of the 81 seats. Also winning seats were the Rally for Democracy and Development (Rassemblement pour le souteien de la démocratie et du développement—RSDD), 3; the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social—UDPS), 2; Juvento, 2; the Believers' Movement for Equality and Peace (Mouvement des croyants pour l'égalité et la paix—MOCEP), 1; and an independent won 1 seat. In early 2003, the UFC pulled out of the CFD umbrella opposition organization, due to disagreements with its strategies and its agreement to sit on the newly reformed electoral commission, CENI, which the UFC judged to be manipulated by the government.