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New Togo charter weakens future presidents but could extend incumbent's rule

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Togo has adopted a new constitution that lengthens presidential terms by one year while limiting the number of terms to one, which will likely allow President Faure Gnassingbe to extend his 19-year rule by a year longer than previously expected.

Faure Gnassingbe with the Emir of Qatar © PT

Togo has adopted a new constitution that lengthens presidential terms by one year while limiting the number of terms to one, which will likely allow President Faure Gnassingbe to extend his 19-year rule by a year longer than previously expected.

The presidency of the tiny phosphate-producing country on the West African coast has been a family affair since 1967, when Gnassingbe Eyadema seized power in a coup. His son succeeded him after his death in 2005.

Under the new constitution, which does not take into account the time he has already spent in office, Faure Gnassingbe could now stay in power until 2031 if he is re-elected in 2025.

This is a highly likely scenario because his party controls parliament. The new constitution, approved by 89 out of 91 lawmakers, says the president is elected by parliament for a single six-year term.

Under the previous constitution, adopted in 2019 in response to street protests, a president was elected by universal suffrage for a maximum of two five-year terms. It would have allowed Gnassingbe to rule until 2030.

"This is the umpteenth preparation of a constitutional coup by a monarchical regime that has held the country's destiny hostage for almost 60 years," one of Togo's opposition parties, the Democratic Forces of the Republic, said while the new constitution was still being debated.

Several other African countries, including Central African Republic, Rwanda, Congo Republic, Ivory Coast and Guinea, have pushed through constitutional and other legal changes in recent years allowing their presidents to extend their terms in office.

The West and Central African region has also witnessed eight military coups in the past three years.

Violent police crackdowns on political demonstrations have been routine under Gnassingbe, as they were during his father's long rule.

Faure Gnassingbe was last re-elected in a 2020 landslide the opposition disputed.

The new constitution also creates a new role, president of the council of ministers, with extensive authority to manage government affairs.

Reporting by Alice Lawson

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