• May 20, 2024 3:52 pm

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Togo’s longtime leader eliminates presidential elections by signing new constitution

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May 7, 2024

Togo’s president has signed a new constitution eliminating presidential elections, his office said late Monday, a move that opponents say will allow him to extend his family’s six-decade rule. Civil society groups in the West African nation have called for protests.

Parliament will now choose the president. The new constitution comes days after the election commission on Saturday announced that President Faure Gnassingbe’s ruling party had won a majority of parliament seats.

There was a crackdown on civic and media freedoms ahead of the vote. The government banned protests against the proposed new constitution and arrested opposition figures. The electoral commission banned the Catholic Church from deploying election observers. Togo’s media regulator suspended the accreditation process for foreign journalists.

REWRITTEN TOGO CONSTITUTION BUCKED BY CITIZENS, STOKES DICTATORIAL FEARS

The new constitution also increases presidential terms from five to six years and introduces a single-term limit. But the nearly 20 years that Gnassingbe has served in office would not count, and the political opposition, religious leaders and civil society say it’s likely that Gnassingbe will stay in power when his mandate expires in 2025.

Togo has been ruled by the same family for 57 years, first by Eyadema Gnassingbe and then by his son. Faure Gnassingbe took office after elections that the opposition described as a sham.

The new constitution also creates a figure similar to a prime minister, to be selected by the ruling party. Critics fear that could become another way for Gnassingbe to extend his grip on power.

A group of about 20 civil society organizations in Togo have called for protests to reinstate the previous constitution.

“We will never accept this new constitution, even after its promulgation,” David Dosseh, a spokesperson for the civil society groups, told The Associated Press, calling the 2025 election “absolutely necessary for the people to choose a new president and finally achieve a democratic transition in Togo.”

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