Togo's ruling party wins a majority in parliament, likely keeping a dynasty in power

FILE - Togo's President, Faure Gnassingbé, centre, looks on, prior to the start of the ECOWAS meeting, in Abuja, Nigeria, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Togolese voters headed to the polls on Monday, April 29, 2024, to vote in the country's parliamentary elections that will test support for a proposed new constitution that would scrap future presidential elections and give lawmakers the power to choose the president instead. (AP Photo/Gbemiga Olamikan, File)

By ERICK KAGLAN Associated Press

LOME, Togo (AP) — Togo’s ruling party has won a majority of seats in the West African nation’s parliament, the election commission said as it announced provisional results of last week’s vote that was rejected by the opposition as part of a move to extend President Faure Gnassingbe’s tenure.

The provisional results late Saturday showed the ruling Union for the Republic (UNIR) party won 108 out of 113 seats in the vote that tested support for a proposed new constitution that would scrap presidential elections and give lawmakers the power to choose the president.

The new constitutional provision provides for a presidential tenure of four years with a two-term limit. It makes it likely that 57-year-old Gnassingbe — in power since 2005 — would be reelected by the new parliament when his mandate expires in 2025, and could stay in power until 2033.

“The Togolese have spoken clearly in our favor,” Gilbert Bawara, a ruling party spokesman, told The Associated Press.

Both the opposition and religious leaders have called for protests after they rejected the legislation passed by lawmakers in March after their mandate expired.

The West African nation has been ruled by the same family for 57 years, initially by Eyadema Gnassingbe and then his son. Faure Gnassingbe took office after elections that the opposition described as a sham. The opposition says the proposed new constitution makes it likely that Gnassingbe will stay on when his mandate expires in 2025.

Nearly half of Togo’s 8.8 million people were registered to vote in the election that had been previously postponed on at least two occasions amid controversies over the new legislation.

An opposition party spokesman, Eric Dupuy, told the AP there was no “real opposition” in the parliamentary vote. “What’s happening in Togo is akin to North Korea,” he said.

Analysts also raised concerns about that the election did not meet voters’ expectations.

In some places like the capital of Lome, turnout was as low as 33% while it was up to 97% in the ruling party’s strongholds in the north.