Togolese President Secures Fourth Five-year Term
Election Date: February 22, 2020
Candidates/Parties in the Running
Faure Gnassingbé, Union pour la République (UNIR): Formerly known as the Rally of the Togolese People (RTP), the party of Faure’s father Eyadéma Gnassingbé during his thirty-eight-year rule, it was rebranded as the UNIR in 2012. The UNIR has maintained an absolute majority in Togo’s last two legislative elections, granting the president near unilateral powers.
Jean-Pierre Fabre, Alliance Nationale pour le Changement (ANC): Fabre was the chief opposition candidate for Togo’s presidential elections in 2010 and 2015, garnering 33.9 and 35.21 percent of the vote, respectively. He formed the ANC after a split with the Union des Forces pour le Changement (UFC), another opposition party, following the 2010 presidential election.
Agbéyomé Kodjo, Mouvement Patriotique pour la Démocratie et le Développement (MPDD): Briefly prime minister from 2000 to 2002 under former president Eyadéma Gnassingbé, Kodjo fell out of favor with the ex-president and had an arrest warrant issued against him for allegedly disrespecting the presidency. He lived in exile in France for a few years before returning following Eyadéma’s death, but was quickly imprisoned for alleged misuse of public funds while he was director-general of the autonomous Port of Lomé.
Aimé Tchabouré Gogué, l’Alliance des Togolaises pour la Démocratie et le Développement Intégral (ADDI): This former economist, deputy minister, and minister will be vying for the presidency a second time, having earned just more than 4 percent of the vote during the 2015 elections. Gogué’s ADDI party has been a part of several different opposition coalitions with the ANC and others over the past decade and was a leading voice of the C14, a coalition of 14 opposition political parties that boycotted the 2018 legislative elections over allegations of “irregularities” biased toward the UNIR.
Komi Wolou, Pacte Socialiste pour le Renouveau (PSR): Spokesman for Togo’s opposition coalition, Wolou is a first-time presidential contender. He has built up a positive reputation as a forceful debater in favor of reforming Togo’s constitution, influenced largely by his position as dean of the law faculty at the University of Lomé.
Thousands of Togolese have persistently demonstrated in the streets against President Faure Gnassingbé, who has ruled since 2005 after being installed, in part, by the Togolese military. His father, Eyadéma Gnassingbé, had similarly installed himself as president in 1967 during a bloodless coup after overthrowing President Nicolas Grunitzky, who rose to power following a military coup led by Eyadéma just four year prior.
Sustained civil unrest in 2017 and 2018 saw protesters carrying signs that read that the 50-year reign of father and son was enough. There were demands for the president to honor the 1992 constitutional referendum, which would have restored multi-party democracy and imposed a two-term limit on any president’s tenure. Eventually, the West African Economic and Monetary Union gathered in Lomé to mediate an exit out of the political crisis. The term limit was reinstated, but it was not made retroactive, so Faure Gnassingbé can in effect win two more terms in office, except if there were to be another amendment. The ruling party controls both the executive and the legislature, making it highly unlikely for any amendments to pass despite Afrobarometer polls showing that at least 85 percent of Togolese support term limits for the presidency.
Other polls conducted by Afrobarometer indicate that nearly half of Togo’s citizens believe their elected officials are more preoccupied with advancing their political careers than attending to the country’s issues. A similar percentage views Togo’s ailing public health infrastructure as the most important issue facing voters this election season. Education is also a prime concern, with overcrowded classrooms hampering primary education. Universities are also charged with failing to teach future graduates the skills needed to meet contemporary private sector needs.
Climate change has also been noted as a chief concern. More than 63 percent of polled Togolese believe that climate change has negatively impacted the country’s agriculture sector, which makes up just under 29 percent of Togo’s collective GDP. It has also been observed that farmers are less likely to be educated and made aware of how climate change impacts them directly, requiring stronger efforts to conduct outreach and promote climate adaptation methods.
What Makes This Election Important
Election violence has not been as severe for Togo as compared with its neighbors Nigeria, Guinea, and Burkina Faso, but the fear remains that with mounting dissatisfaction toward the government and social media capturing videos of Togolese security forces maiming protesters, the violence could increase and potentially throw the country into a protracted political crisis. Needless to say, the stability of Togo after this election is essential for broader regional stability.
The extensive rule of one political family in Togo is yet another example of what pro-democracy watchdogs refer to as a “democratic backsliding”. Though Faure Gnassingbé has demonstrated some degree of consideration for the concerns of the political opposition, the UNIR’s hold on Togo remains forceful, which could eventually transform Togo into a democracy in name only.
Why This Election Matters for Africa and the Rest of the World
Togo hosted several African heads of state last month to sign the Lomé Initiative, crafted to promote cooperation between countries in order to crack down on counterfeit medications, which injure or kill tens of thousands of Africans every year while also providing black market funding to organized crime and terrorist organizations. Ensuring that Togo’s elections run smoothly and ensure stability is vital for this initiative to succeed, along with similar regional efforts to curtail illicit drug smuggling. West Africa’s Atlantic Coast is a prime destination for South American cocaine, which is offloaded at ports before making its way through the Sahara Desert and to North Africa, to eventually be sold in Europe. This trade is a prime source of funding for Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and other terrorist outfits, as well as crime syndicates operating in the border regions of the Sahel where state authority is weakest.
On February 23, Togo’s independent electoral commission (CENI) declared incumbent Faure Gnassingbé the winner of the presidential election, extending the Gnassingbé dynasty’s rule over Togo by another five years. Early results indicate that President Gnassingbé won his fourth term with 72 percent of the vote. The next closest competitor was Agbéyomé Kodjo, former prime minister under Faure’s father Eyadéma Gnassingbé, who earned the remaining 18 percent.
Both challengers claimed early victory before the results were announced. When just 60 percent of the votes were tallied and Faure’s victory was all but assured, Kodjo insisted to reporters that the results could not be relied upon due to accusations of electoral fraud. Hours after the polls closed, Togolese security forces surrounded Kodjo’s home and that of the former archbishop of Lomé, Philippe Kpodzro, a staunch supporter of Kodjo during this election season.
Agbéyomé Kodjo has up to 48 hours to launch a complaint regarding the results, which will be decided upon by the Togolese Supreme Court. It is expected that the Supreme Court will make a final decision and declare the official winner later this week.