President of Togo Faure Gnassingbe is seen during the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government 54th Ordinary Session in Abuja, Nigeria December 22, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo

LOME, April 29 (Reuters) – Voting got under way in legislative elections in Togo on Monday following approval of constitutional reforms by the outgoing parliament that could extend the 19-year-old rule of President Faure Gnassingbe.

Under a new charter adopted in March introducing a parliamentary system of government, the president will be elected by parliament instead of by universal suffrage.

Details about the assembly’s election of the head of state remain unclear as yet, although under the new constitution the parliament will appoint a position described as president of the council of ministers, who will have extensive authority to manage the coastal West African nation’s government affairs.

Monday’s vote had been pushed back twice because of a fierce backlash from some opposition parties who called the constitutional changes a political manoeuvre to allow Gnassingbe to extend his tenure for life.

Over four million people are registered to vote for 113 lawmakers among 2,352 candidates. Polls opened at 0700 GMT and provisional results are expected from Tuesday.

Regional elections are also taking place.

Opposition parties are taking part, hoping to gain seats that will enable them to challenge Gnassingbe’s UNIR party after they boycotted the last legislative poll and left it effectively in control of parliament.


Togo has seen years of resistance to the Gnassingbe family’s grip on power. The president was first elected 19 years ago to succeed his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who took office in a coup in 1967.

Violent police crackdowns on political demonstrations have been routine under Gnassingbe – reelected in a 2020 landslide disputed by the opposition – as they were during his father’s rule.

Several other African countries have pushed through constitutional and other legal changes in recent years allowing their presidents to extend their terms in office.

Monday’s vote, initially set for April 20, was postponed twice to allow for consultations on the new constitution.

Amendments unanimously approved in a second parliamentary vote earlier this month shortened presidential terms to four years from five with a two-term limit.

This does not take into account the time already spent in office, which could enable Gnassingbe to stay in power until 2033 if he is re-elected when his mandate expires in 2025. He has not yet stated his intentions.


Some opposition parties and civil society groups renewed calls for protests after the second vote, sparking small-scale demonstrations last week.

(Reporting by Alice Lawson; Writing by Sofia Christensen, Editing by William Maclean)