Togo‘s parliament endorsed a constitutional reform that would allow long-standing President Faure Gnassingbe to remain in power until 2030, despite widespread protests calling for the end of the decades-long grip on power of his family.
The piece of legislation limits the presidential mandate to two terms of five years but does not apply retrospectively, meaning that Gnassingbe will be able to stand for the next two elections in 2020 and 2025, despite having served three terms since succeeding his late father 14 years ago.
“The president of the republic is elected by universal suffrage … for a term of five years, renewable once,”
New text in the Constitution
All 90 lawmakers present signed the amendment off, surpassing Parliament’s required four-fifth approval to make such changes. One other lawmaker was not present.
Another change passed by the National Assembly guaranteed immunity for life to all former presidents, who the new constitutional terms said cannot be “prosecuted, arrested, detained, or tried for acts committed during their presidential term”.
Gnassingbe’s Union for the Republic party holds two-thirds of the seats in parliament. The main opposition boycotted legislative elections in December, in part because of the dispute over term limits, leaving them without seats in parliament and powerless to vote against the amendments.
Legislators also changed the rules for their own mandate, meaning they can now hold their seats for two terms of six years each. Before, they had a mandate of five years but with an unlimited number of terms.
Brigitte Adjamagbo-Johnson, coordinator of the opposition coalition, said she was “shocked” by the changes.
“He (Gnassingbe) has shown the Togolese people that the only thing that worries him is to stay in power,” she told reporters in the capital, Lome.
Deadly clashes erupted over the proposed constitutional changes in 2017 after security forces cracked down on demonstrators calling for Gnassingbe’s resignation – echoing a mass movement against his first appointment in 2005 during which at least 500 people were killed.
Opponents of the president, whose father seized power in a 1967 coup, have sought term limits and other constitutional reforms since then to align the former French colony with most of its West African neighbours.