Togo: Constitutional Reform - Situation Tense After Vote in Parliament

Lomé — The situation in Togo remains tense. Opposition parties have joined forces to protest against the new Constitution adopted by the National Assembly on March 25, the text of which was drafted in secret. The new Charter provides for the transition from a presidential to a parliamentary system, with the President no longer elected by the people but by the National Assembly, as well as the creation of the office of prime minister to head the government.

The text was adopted by a parliament that is at the end of its term and is led by the Union pour la République (UNIR), the party of President Faure Gnassingbé, who has been in power since 2005, succeeding his father Gnassingbé Eyadéma.

The opposition boycotted the 2018 parliamentary elections to protest against a power that has dominated the country for decades and has been passed from father to son. However, this does not apply to the upcoming parliamentary elections, which were supposed to take place on April 20 but were postponed by Gnassingbé due to the protests that continue to take place in the country despite the ban by the authorities. The opposition had called for three days of protests from April 11th to 13th, but these were banned.

The election is expected to take place on April 29 unless further postponed. The opposition and large parts of civil society question the modalities of the constitutional reform (night vote on a text that no one has yet seen except for MPs close to the president) and its content. In particular, there are fears that the changes, especially the modalities for the election of the head of state, are aimed at consolidating the power of Faure Gnassingbé. In their communiqué published on March 26, the Togolese bishops question "whether this change is appropriate or not; whether the timing is appropriate or not; the procedure chosen." "It seems important to us, to the people and not only to their representatives to explain to the National Assembly the reasons for this change," they demand. The bishops also emphasize that at the end of its term, the National Assembly should "deal only with urgent and topical issues, pending the results of the elections to be held on April 20".

The bishops hope that such an "important question, which will profoundly change the political life of our country," will be the subject of "broad consultation and a broader public debate." Finally, the Togolese Bishops' Conference calls on the head of state "to postpone the promulgation of the new constitution and to initiate a comprehensive political dialogue following the results of the upcoming parliamentary and regional elections." Yesterday, April 15, a delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) visited Togo to, as it said in a statement, "meet key stakeholders on the latest developments in the country ahead of the parliamentary and regional elections on April 29, 2024".

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