After nearly a week of growing public discontent, the Togolese presidency announced that the controversial constitutional reform bill will be tabled again in Parliament.

In a statement unveiled on March 29, the office of President Faure Gnassingbé invokes the “interest aroused” by the adoption of the bill and the “perfectible nature of the law” to justify the request for a “second reading”.

The legislation, initially passed by parliament on March 25, has faced criticism from opposition parties who view it as a ploy to consolidate Gnassingbe’s domination over the structure of power in Togo.

Gnassingbé has ruled the country since 2005. Before that, he’s father was in charge.

The proposed Constitution grants parliament the power to choose the president, doing away with direct elections. This makes it likely that Gnassingbé would be re-elected when his mandate expires in 2025.

Instead of a renewable 5-year term, the proposed bill restricts the power of future presidents and introduces a one-term limit. Instead, it hands over greater power to a figure similar to a prime minister, officially called the president of the council of minister. But opposition fears the role could become another avenue for Gnassingbé to extend his grip on power.

Postponing not annulling

Activists and opposition leaders in Togo called on Wednesday (Mar. 27) for protests to stop the country’s president from signing off on a new constitution.

The Catholic Christian clergy has urged the president not to sign the bill into law. “Such an important subject which will profoundly change the political life of the country must give rise to broad consultation and a more inclusive national debate,” say the Conference of Togolese Catholic bishops said in a statement last week.

Togo’s presidency said the government received the proposed bill on Thursday (Mar. 28), from the “office of the National Assembly”.

President Faure Gnassingbé then asked to the president of the National Assembly to oversee a “second reading”.

Following the announcement, some Togolese took to social media to criticize the move arguing that “the will of the people [was] that the bill be dropped altogether.”

The vote of the controversial Constitution comes ahead of parliamentary and regional elections.

Some 4.2 million Togolese are registered to vote on April 20th.

It is unclear when lawmakers will start the second reading and if there will be amendments to the adopted bill.

The date on which the cosntitutional reform will take effect has not been communicated either.

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