Togo’s President Signs Law Expected to Extend His Decades-Long Rule

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Late Monday, Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe signed into law a contentious new constitution that scraps presidential elections, a move criticized by opponents as a ploy to prolong his family’s lengthy rule.

The latest legislation grants parliament the authority to select the president, effectively abolishing direct elections. This decision comes on the heels of the electoral commission’s announcement that Gnassingbe’s ruling party clinched a majority of parliamentary seats in the recent polls.

Crackdown on Civil Liberties

In the lead-up to the vote, authorities clamped down on civic and media freedoms, prohibiting protests against the proposed constitution and detaining opposition figures. Additionally, the electoral commission barred the Catholic Church from deploying election monitors.

Amidst this tightening grip, a French journalist covering the elections was arrested, assaulted, and expelled, with Togo’s media regulator subsequently halting the accreditation process for foreign journalists.Togo

Ruling Party’s Dominance

Provisional results revealed the ruling Union for the Republic (UNIR) party’s sweeping victory, securing 108 out of 113 parliamentary seats and 137 out of 179 senate positions.

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The new constitution extends presidential terms from five to six years, introducing a single-term limit. However, Gnassingbe’s nearly two-decade-long tenure would not count towards this limit.

Concerns and Opposition

Opposition groups, religious leaders, and civil society have voiced apprehensions that the new constitution could enable Gnassingbe to retain power beyond his current mandate, which ends in 2025. They fear the creation of a prime minister-like figure, chosen from the ruling party, might further entrench his authority.

Calls for Protest

A coalition of approximately 20 civil society organizations in Togo has urged citizens to rally against the constitutional amendments, emphasizing the need for a democratic transition in 2025.

“We will never accept this new constitution, even after its promulgation,” remarked David Dosseh, a spokesperson for the civil society groups. “The Togolese people must decisively look towards 2025, ensuring a presidential election for a democratic transition.”

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