Togolese to vote on presidential term limits, opposition angry

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 19, 2017 11:37 AM

LOME (Reuters) - Togo will hold a referendum in the coming days to limit presidential terms, after parliament failed on Tuesday to agree the reform that the opposition says would still let Faure Gnassingbe remain head of state for years.

Announcing the decision to put the constitutional changes to a popular vote, parliament head Drama Dramani told lawmakers: "You have voted for the revision of the constitution but it's the people who will decide, by referendum, in the next few days."

Even though 62 of 63 lawmakers present backed the bill to set a 2-term limit on the presidency, an opposition boycott meant the vote fell short of the four-fifths majority required to change the constitution.

They are angry that the measure does not include a clause that would make Gnassingbe's ongoing presidency illegal and, with the possibility of two more 5-year terms, could leave him in power until 2030.

Gnassingbe, now in his third term and whose family has ruled the former French colony for 50 years, had been president since succeeding his late father in 2005.

Thousands of people have joined anti-government demonstrations this month and more protests are planned for Wednesday and Thursday.

Gnassingbe's opponents have been seeking term limits for more than a decade, to align the former French colony with most of its West African neighbors.

(Reporting by John Zodzi; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)