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Togo: Referendum to Be Held on Constitutional Reform

(Sept. 28, 2017) On September 15, 2017, the Law Commission of the Togolese National Assembly began discussing a draft bill to amend the country’s Constitution. (Togo: que contient l’avant-projet de loi sur la réforme de la Constitution? [Togo: What Is in the Draft Bill on Constitutional Reform?], RFI AFRIQUE (Sept. 14, 2017).)  The National Assembly as a whole then went on to deliberate and vote on the draft on September 19.  (Anne Cantener, Togo: le projet de réforme constitutionnelle examiné à l’Assemblée nationale [Togo: Constitutional Reform Bill Discussed at the National Assembly], RFI AFRIQUE (Sept. 19, 2017).)

The proposed amendments needed to be approved by at least four-fifths of the National Assembly in order to be adopted, but failed to do so due to the absence of a number of opposition representatives. (Edmond D’Almeida, Togo : pouvoir et opposition manifestent après l’échec de l’adoption des réformes constitutionnelles au Parlement [Togo: Demonstrations by Government Supporters and Opponents After the Failure of Parliament to Adopt Constitutional Reforms], JEUNE AFRIQUE (Sept. 20, 2017).) The proposed amendment was, however, approved by two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly, which means that it will be subject to a popular referendum, as required by the Constitution.  (Id.; La Constitution de la IVe Republique (promulgated on Oct. 14, 1992, as amended by Law No. 2002-029 of Dec. 31, 2002), art. 144, National Assembly of Togo website.)

Background

The proposed reform would amend three articles of the Constitution by

  • limiting the term of the President to five years, renewable only once;
  • limiting the number of terms for members of the National Assembly to a maximum of two; and
  • making presidential elections follow a two-round system rather than the current one-round system. (Togo: que contient l’avant-projet de loi sur la réforme de la Constitution?, supra.)

The discussions over the proposed reform began in response to several days of demonstrations. (Salem Solomon, Togo Protesters Press Demands for Constitutional Reform, VOA (Sept. 15, 2017).)  The proposed reform fulfills some of the opposition’s demands, but far from all of them.  (Cantener, supra.)  One of the main points of disagreement appears to be whether the sitting president, Faure Gnassingbe, would be required to step down if the constitutional amendments were adopted.  (Id.)  Gnassingbe has been in power since his father’s death in 2005, and the opposition parties argue that the presidential term limit, if adopted, should apply to him.  The ruling party, however, argues that the timer would be reset to zero, which would not only allow Gnassingbe to remain in office until the end of his current term, but also to run for election again.  (Id.)