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Togo’s President Signs New Constitution Eliminating Presidential Elections

Under Togo’s new constitution, the president will not be elected by popular vote; parliament will select the head of state.

Late Monday, Togo’s president approved a new constitution abolishing presidential elections, a move condemned by critics as a ploy to prolong his family’s decades-long reign. Civil society organizations within the West African nation have called for protests in response.

Under the new constitution, the president will no longer be elected by popular vote; instead, parliament will select the head of state. This development follows the recent announcement by the election commission that President Faure Gnassingbe’s ruling party secured a majority in parliament.

Ahead of the vote, the government imposed restrictions on civic and media freedoms, including the prohibition of protests against the proposed constitution and the arrest of opposition members. Additionally, the electoral commission barred the Catholic Church from deploying election observers, while Togo’s media regulator suspended accreditation for foreign journalists.

Despite some provisions in the new constitution, such as extending presidential terms to six years with a single-term limit, critics argue that it provides loopholes for Gnassingbe to prolong his tenure beyond the slated 2025 mandate expiration. The Gnassingbe family has dominated Togo’s political landscape for over half a century, with Eyadema Gnassingbe initially at the helm, succeeded by his son Faure Gnassingbe after contested elections labeled as fraudulent by the opposition.

Moreover, the new constitution introduces a prime minister-like position appointed by the ruling party, raising concerns that it could serve as another avenue for Gnassingbe to maintain control.

In response to the constitutional changes, a coalition of civil society organizations in Togo has called for protests demanding the reinstatement of the previous constitution. David Dosseh, a spokesperson for the groups, emphasized the necessity of the 2025 election for a democratic transition, labeling it “absolutely necessary” for Togo’s people to elect a new president.

The move signals ongoing tensions in Togo’s political landscape, with opposition voices and civil society groups vehemently opposing measures perceived as entrenching the ruling party’s grip on power.

Melissa Enoch

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