Sunday 24 September 2017

Despite protests, reform off the menu as Togo MPs meet

Despite protests, reform off the menu as Togo MPs meet
(AFP (eng) 09/12/17)

Lawmakers in Togo met in parliament on Tuesday after days of anti-government protests but constitutional reform was left off the agenda.

Opposition party supporters had hoped that changes to the political system would be discussed after the government proposed a bill on the subject last week.

But according to the official parliamentary agenda, the only topic for debate was the National Assembly's administrative budget for 2018.

Eric Dupuy, spokesman for the main opposition National Alliance for Change (ANC) party, described the parliament as "out of sync with what's happening politically" in Togo.

Opposition members of parliament requested the extraordinary session be ended immediately. Budget votes normally take place in closed-door session, with the public shut out.

Security services meanwhile threw up a cordon around the parliament building in the capital, Lome, after opposition calls for a demonstration.

Last week, hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Lome and cities across the country against President Faure Gnassingbe and his family's 50 years in power.

He has been president since 2005 following the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who had been in power since 1967.

Opposition parties have long called for the introduction of two-term limits for presidents and a change to a two-round voting system.

Togo's 1992 constitution has been modified a number of times, including by Gnassingbe Eyadema, who in 2002 got rid of the limits on presidential mandates.

Last week, the government appeared to offer a concession to protesters by approving a parliamentary bill on reform, suggesting lawmakers could debate it on Tuesday.

But Alphonse Waguena, secretary-general of the National Assembly, on Monday said a proper debate on constitutional reform could not be held at such short notice.

"The bill must be assigned to the constitutional law commission. The commission will do its job and produce a report that will presented in plenary session," he told state television.

Opposition leaders have described the government bill as a "delaying tactic". Attempts to discuss reform with the government in previous years have also come to nothing.

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