Togolese vote in legislative elections on Monday after a divisive constitutional reform that opponents say allows President Faure Gnassingbe to extend his family’s decades-long grip on power.
The ballot comes after lawmakers approved the reform this month that creates a new prime minister-style post that opponents fear is tailored for Gnassingbe to avoid presidential term limits and stay in office.
In power for nearly 20 years, Gnassingbe succeeded his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled for almost four decades himself following a coup in the small coastal West African state between Benin and Ghana.
Monday’s vote will elect 113 lawmakers and, for the first time, 179 regional deputies from the country’s five districts, along with municipal councilors, to elect a newly created Senate.
For Gnassingbe’s ruling UNIR party, this makes Togo more representative, but opposition parties have mobilized supporters to vote against what they say is an “institutional coup”.
Gnassingbe, 57, has already won four elections, all contested by the opposition as flawed. He would have only been able to run one more time as president in 2025 under the previous constitution.
According to the new constitution adopted by lawmakers on April 19, Togo’s president takes on a mostly ceremonial role and is elected by parliament, not the people, for a four-year term.
Togo shifted from a presidential to a parliamentary system, meaning power resides with the new president of the council of ministers, a sort of super-Prime Minister, who will automatically be the leader of the majority party in the new assembly.
Gnassingbe’s Union for the Republic, or UNIR party, already dominates parliament. If the ruling party wins on Monday, Gnassingbe can assume that new post.
For supporters, extending Gnassingbe’s time means continuing with his development programmes, which they say have improved infrastructure.
The regional West African body, ECOWAS, said it would send a team of observers to Togo for the vote. Opposition attempts to organize protests against the reforms were blocked by the authorities. Togo’s Electoral Commission refused to allow the Togolese Bishops’ Conference to deploy election observers across the country.
Togo’s High Authority for Audiovisual and Communication (HAAC) also temporarily suspended all accreditation for the foreign press to cover the elections.

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