A parliamentary panel in Togo on Friday approved a controversial bill to revamp the constitution and introduce a presidential term limit, after days of protests against the regime of Faure Gnassingbe, the scion of Africa’s oldest political dynasty.
After a closed-door session, ten members of the National Assembly’s law commission approved the government-proposed text by a six-to-four vote.
But the commission did not accept any amendments proposed by opposition parties during a debate held at the same time in the parliament chamber, including opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre and three government ministers.
“We submitted 48 amendments… the government which is backing this constitutional revision rejected them en bloc. So there was nothing for us to do in the chamber. We left,” Fabre said while leaving parliament.
The law commission will now give its final report to the full parliament for a vote that will require the support of four-fifths of lawmakers for approval.
Gnassingbe’s government approved the bill last Tuesday on the eve of protests that drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets across the country calling for change.
The president has been in power since 2005 and won three elections that have been disputed by the opposition.
His father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, was president before him for 38 years.
The opposition has long called for a limit of two five-year terms for presidents and the introduction of a two-round voting system.
New protests have been called for next Wednesday and Thursday and a counter-demonstration by government supporters has also been planned at the same time.
Opposition leaders have called the government’s proposed reforms a “diversionary tactic”.
If adopted, the term limits would not be applied retroactively, leaving Gnassingbe free to contest the next two elections in 2020 and 2025.
Togo is the only country in West Africa not to have presidential term limits.
Previous attempts to have open-ended terms of office have seen popular protests in places such as The Gambia and Burkina Faso and forced the government out.