Togo Holds Controversial Legislative Elections Amid Constitutional Reform

Togo's 2024 legislative elections marred by controversy over constitutional reforms that could extend the Gnassingbe family's decades-long rule. Opposition boycotts, security concerns, and a struggle for democracy in West Africa.

Israel Ojoko
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Togo Holds Controversial Legislative Elections Amid Constitutional Reform

Togo Holds Controversial Legislative Elections Amid Constitutional Reform

Togo is holding legislative elections on April 29, 2024, amid controversy over a constitutional reform that critics say will allow President Faure Gnassingbe to extend his family's decades-long rule.

The opposition has boycotted the elections, citing irregularities in past votes, while supporters of the ruling UNIR party remain divided on the changes.

The constitutional reform, passed by lawmakers on April 19, shifts Togo from a presidential to a parliamentary system. It makes the president's post largely ceremonial, with power residing with the president of the council of ministers, who will be the leader of the majority party in the new assembly. Critics argue this will allow Gnassingbe to bypass presidential term limits by assuming the newly created role.

Why this matters: The constitutional changes in Togo are part of a broader trend in West and Central Africa of presidents pushing through amendments to extend their time in office. The controversy surrounding the elections highlights the ongoing struggle for democracy and political stability in the region.

The opposition has denounced the reforms as a "constitutional coup" and mobilized to challenge the UNIR party's dominance, hoping to gain a majority in the National Assembly to change the new constitution. However, some opposition parties agree the changes were necessary for good governance and development, while others remain skeptical about the potential undermining of democratic norms.

Security and stability are key concerns in Togo, with the country facing the risk of spillover from jihadist conflicts in the Sahel region to the north. The Togolese community abroad has also expressed concerns about the centralization of power under Gnassingbe's rule.

The legislative vote on Monday will also see the first-time election of regional representatives under the new constitution. The campaign period ended on April 28 with an electoral silence period before the polls open.

The Gnassingbe family has been in power in Togo for nearly four decades, with Faure Gnassingbe succeeding his father as president in 2005. He has been re-elected four times since then, with the opposition rejecting the votes as a sham. The constitutional reform and controversial elections take place against this backdrop of the Gnassingbe family's long-standing grip on power in the small West African nation.

Key Takeaways

  • Togo holds legislative elections on April 29, 2024, amid controversy over constitutional reform.
  • Reform shifts Togo to a parliamentary system, potentially allowing Gnassingbe to bypass term limits.
  • Opposition boycotts elections, citing irregularities, while UNIR party is divided on the changes.
  • Reforms are part of a broader trend in West/Central Africa of presidents extending their rule.
  • Gnassingbe family has ruled Togo for nearly 4 decades, with elections rejected as a sham.