Voters in Togo are set to cast their ballots on Saturday in a presidential election that is expected to further extend the Gnassingbe family’s decades-long rule.
Polls show incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe is likely to win a fourth-straight term in office as the opposition has not been able to form a united front.
The 53-year-old leader took office in 2005 after the death of his father, Eyadema Gnassingbe, who led the country for 38 years after seizing power in a coup in 1967.
Among the candidates is a former journalist and human rights campaigner, Jean-Pierre Fabre, who challenged Gnassingbe in the 2010 and 2015 elections, coming in second on both occasions.
Five other candidates are also competing, including former Prime Minister Gabriel Messan Agbeyome Kodjo, who represents a coalition of opposition and civil society groups.
The election comes on the back of a series of major protests that swept through the country of some eight million people in 2017 and 2018 with demonstrators demanding that Gnassingbe step aside. However, demonstrations were choked off by a fierce government crackdown and a split among the opposition, and Gnassingbe’s grip now appears as solid as ever.
The president pushed through constitutional changes in May last year allowing him to stand again this year, and potentially stay in office until 2030
The constitutional change caps the presidential mandate to two five-year terms, but does not take into account the three terms Gnassingbe has already served.