After election rout, Togo opposition looks for political overhaulMon, 06 May 2024 10:35:55 GMT

Togo’s opposition says it needs to “reinvent” itself after winning just five seats in ¬†legislative elections it has dismissed as an “electoral masquerade”.Opposition parties hoped for a strong showing in the April 29 ballot after a contested constitutional reform, which they say will allow President Faure Gnassingbe to extend his already nearly two-decade rule.Gnassingbe’s ruling Union for the Republic or UNIR party won 108 of the 113 parliament seats in the small West African State sitting between Ghana and Benin.Under the new constitution, it means Togo’s leader can now assume a new role as president of the council of ministers, a kind of prime minister position which critics say will allow him to skirt term limits.The legislative and regional vote results were released over the weekend. Voter turnout was 61 percent, according to electoral officials.”These results are a real lesson for the opposition, we need to reinvent ourselves,” said Paul Dodji Apevon, president of the opposition Democratic Forces for the Republic party, which won one seat.”These were not elections, it was a masquerade, it was an electoral stick up,” he added, claiming “massive fraud”.Opposition parties boycotted the last parliament election in 2018, citing irregularities.But this time they tried to mobilise supporters to reverse the reform they condemned as an “institutional coup”.UNIR loyalists say the reform makes Togo’s democracy more representative.Nathaniel Olympio, president of the opposition Parti des Togolais or PT, denounced an “electoral masquerade” on X, formerly Twitter, and called on the opposition to “reorient its struggle”.- ‘Total humiliation’ -But UNIR lawmaker Kayi Raymonde Lawson dismissed opposition claims of fraud.”The opposition can only cry fraud. It was a fair battle. It was a total humiliation,” she said.”The opposition came crashing down like a Boeing from the sky.”The provisional results, which must be confirmed by the constitutional court, signal an undisputed victory for Gnassingbe, who has been in power since 2005 after taking over from his father who himself ruled for nearly four decades.The new constitution adopted in a second reading on April 19 shifts Togo from a presidential to a parliamentary system and all but guarantees Gnassingbe can stay in power.It means the presidency becomes a largely ceremonial position elected by lawmakers.Under the old constitution, Gnassingbe, 57, could only be re-elected one more time as president.But the newly created president of the council of ministers will automatically be assumed by the head of the majority party in parliament.Gnassingbe is expected to hold the position for the next six years, and as long as his UNIR remains the majority party.Observers from the regional Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, the African Union and the International Organisation of La Francophonie said they were satisfied with the conduct of the legislative election.