Regional observers say Togo legislative vote ‘free, fair’Tue, 30 Apr 2024 20:24:51 GMT

Togo’s legislative election was “free, fair and transparent,” regional electoral observers 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 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 initially 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 took part in the first vote since the adoption of the new constitution that created a prime minister-style post opposition parties believe will allow Gnassingbe to evade term limits.Observers from the regional group Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) noted concerns about how some ballots were annulled and how voters were still queueing up as polling stations closed.But “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 the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued a short statement praising the vote.It said that its mission chief, former Gambian vice-president Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajan “expressed her satisfaction with the smooth organisation of the… election”.Gnassingbe, 57, has already won four elections since 2005, all denounced as flawed by the opposition. The main opposition party boycotted the last parliamentary elections in 2018, citing irregularities.The Togo presidency said the ECOWAS mission chief and the head of the African Union observation mission met with Gnassingbe, expressing satisfaction with how the election was conducted.Neither ECOWAS nor the AU have yet made public their initial reports on the election.Togo’s main opposition party the National Alliance for Change likewise has not made a statement about the elections.But the DMP opposition alliance said it observed irregularities in several centres including over-voting and delays in the start of voting.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 only have been able to run one more time as president in 2025.