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11 Apr, 2024 10:11

Togo delays elections over legislative dispute

Opposition parties are opposing a new constitution in the country, which has been ruled by the same family for nearly 60 years
Togo delays elections over legislative dispute

Togo’s parliamentary and regional elections, which were postponed following controversial constitutional reform that heightened tensions in the West African country, will be held on April 29, the government announced on Tuesday.

Electoral campaigns will begin on April 13 and end two days before the vote, the government said in a statement after a cabinet meeting in the capital, Lome.

The elections were originally scheduled for April 20, but the Togolese authorities postponed them to allow for consultations on proposed constitutional changes, which were passed by lawmakers in late March. The draft law scraps presidential elections and empowers parliament to choose the president.

It also extends the presidential term from five to six years. The Associated Press cited some legal experts as saying that if the legislation were enacted, it would limit the power of future presidents due to the one-term limit it introduces, and delegate more power to a figure similar to a prime minister.

However, opposition parties have called the amendments an attempt to prolong the rule of President Faure Gnassingbe, who has run the former French colony since 2005 after succeeding his father, Eyadema Gnassingbe, who had ruled from 1967 until his death.

Opposition coalitions, including the National Alliance for Change (ANC) party, have vowed to prevent the bill from becoming law, calling for protests.

Last week, nine opposition activists were arrested for allegedly disrupting public order. They were released on Tuesday evening, and their spokesman, Thomas Kokou Nsoukpoe, described the arrests as arbitrary and abusive.

On Tuesday, the Togolese government denied a group of five opposition parties permission to hold a three-day protest against the legislative reform, and denounced the arrest of opposition figures. The authorities said the organizers of the rallies, which had been scheduled to begin on Thursday, did not apply for permits on time, and allowing them would disrupt public order.

The group, which includes the ANC, has declared that the protests would take place regardless, but only on Friday and Saturday.