Togo's Ruling Party Wins Parliamentary Poll in Victory for Longtime President

Togo's legislative elections delivered a sweeping majority for the ruling party, the country's electoral commission announced late on Saturday. The results pave the way for President Faure Gnassingbé, already in power for nearly 20 years, to extend his rule under a controversial reform to the constitution that his opponents denounce as an "institutional coup".

Gnassingbé's Union for the Republic party (UNIR) won 108 of 113 seats in the new assembly, according to provisional results from Monday's vote.

Under the new constitution approved by lawmakers in April, Gnassingbé will now be able to take a new post as "president of the council of ministers" - a role similar to prime minister that is automatically assumed by the leader of the majority party in parliament.

Opposition parties claim the role is designed for Gnassingbé to evade presidential term limits and extend his family's political dynasty.

Under the previous constitution, Gnassingbé would have been able to run for the presidency just one more time, for a five-year term starting in 2025.

But now, the opposition says, Gnassingbé will be able to stay in power without term limits as long as the UNIR is the majority party in the national assembly.

Opposition objects

Opposition parties have denounced irregularities in the 29 April vote, including alleged ballot stuffing.

But regional observers said that on the whole they were satisfied with how the election was conducted.

The vote was delayed twice because of opposition backlash to the constitutional changes, while public protests against the reforms were banned.

In 2005, Gnassingbé succeeded his father Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who ruled for almost 40 years in the small West African state between Benin and Ghana.

He has since won four elections, though all were denounced as flawed by the opposition.

The main opposition boycotted Togo's last parliamentary election in 2018, citing irregularities. But this time they had rallied supporters and were hoping to gain seats to allow them to challenge UNIR's majority.

According to the new constitution, Togo's president now becomes a mostly ceremonial role elected by parliament, and not the people, for a four-year term.

(with AFP)

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