Regional observers says Togo legislative vote ‘free, fair’Tue, 30 Apr 2024 13:50:13 GMT

Togo’s legislative election should be considered “free, fair and transparent,” a regional electoral observation mission said on Tuesday, a day after the small West African state voted for new lawmakers and regional deputies.Electoral authorities have yet to release initial results from Monday’s dual vote which came after lawmakers passed a divisive constitutional reform that critics say will extend President Faure Gnassingbe’s grip on power.Togo’s military put Gnassingbe in power nearly two decades ago after the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled the Gulf of Guinea nation for almost four decades.On Monday, Togolese voted under the new constitution which created a prime minister-style post that opposition parties believe will allow Gnassingbe to evade term limits and stay in power.Observers from the regional group Community of Sahel-Saharan States or CEN-SAD did note concerns about how some ballots were annulled and how voters were still lining up as polling stations closed.”The insufficiencies were not of a nature that impaired the transparency and regularity of the voting on April 29, which should be considered as free, fair and transparent,” the CEN-SAD said in a statement.CEN-SAD observers said the election had been carried out mostly in a “good atmosphere” and without any major incidents.Regional body Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, also sent an observer mission, but has yet to issue its preliminary report.Togo’s main opposition party National Alliance for Change has not made a statement about the conduct of the elections. But the DMP opposition alliance said it observed irregularities in several centres including over-voting and delays in the start of ballots.Gnassingbe, 57, has already won four elections since 2005, all denounced as flawed by the opposition. The main opposition party boycotted the last parliament election in 2018, citing irregularities.According to the new constitution adopted by lawmakers on April 19, Togo’s president assumes a mostly ceremonial role elected by parliament for a four-year term.Power now resides with the new “president of the council of ministers”, a sort of super-Prime Minister, who automatically will 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 is declared the winner, he can assume that new post, whereas he would have only been able to run one more time as president in 2025.