Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Despite protests, reform off the menu as Togo MPs meet



Opposition lawmakers in Togo forced the adjournment of parliament on Tuesday in protest at a constitutional reform bill being left off the day's agenda, despite days of anti-government protests.

The president of the National Assembly, Dama Dramani, agreed to suspend the extraordinary session as lawmakers had "no say" in setting the topic for debate.

The only subject on the agenda was the assembly's administrative budget for next year. The session would resume on Wednesday, he added.

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

Security services had thrown 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 who have held power for 50 years.

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 the two-round voting system.

- 'Delaying tactic' -

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," he told state television.

"The commission will do its job and produce a report that will presented in a plenary session."

Dramani said the consultation process would now begin. That risks making it a drawn-out affair, confounding opposition hopes of rapid reform.

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.

AFP
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