Togoloese vote in local elections and constitutional referendum on presidential term limits

Togoloese vote in local elections and constitutional referendum on presidential term limits

Today, Togolese citizens head to the polls for local elections, as well as to vote on a host of constitutional

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Photo: Reuters

Today, Togolese citizens head to the polls for local elections, as well as to vote on a host of constitutional reforms.

Togo has been under the rule of the Gnassingbe family since 1967, when the father of current President Faure Gnassingbe seized power. President Gnassingbe was elected to his third term in 2015, but major protests, driven by a large youth population, erupted last year, demanding constitutional reforms.

These reforms would reinstate the 1992 constitution, setting a two-term limit on the presidency, installing a two-round voting structure and enfranchising Togolese nationals abroad. These measures are likely to pass today, given widespread anti-Gnassingbe sentiment, but their implementation remains more difficult to predict.

Mr Gnassingbe conceded to today’s referendum to quell opposition protests, but after more than 50 years of the family’s rule a transition to a stronger democracy could be difficult. Indeed, past reform attempts, like those of 1992, have been unsuccessful.

If the president ignores the referendum’s result, expect mass protest nationwide, especially with legislative elections coming up on Thursday. Demonstrations may well occur regardless of the outcome if the opposition alleges electoral fraud, which has happened numerous times in the past.

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