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Showdown in Togo

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On 6 September, three weeks after the demonstrations in Lomé and Sokodé that killed at least two people, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of ten cities in Togo at the opposition’s request. Their demands: political change and the implementation of the constitutional reforms promised by the regime that would limit the number of terms the president can serve and introduce a two-round voting system. This demonstration of strength, described as “never-seen” by the longtime leader of the opposition and National Alliance for Change (ANC) representative Jean-Pierre Fabre, is part of an effort to continue to put pressure on the government following the Council of Ministers’ adoption of a “constitutional amendment” draft bill that would pave the way for parliamentary scrutiny. Far from calming down the political situation, the week of September 11 was marked by an intensification of opposition activity. After the extraordinary session devoted to examining the parliamentary budget was suspended the day before it was supposed to take place -- a budget that was rejected by the opposition in the name of constitutional reform -- the sessions on 13 and 14 September, did not resolve the crisis. The opposition denounced the lack of debate about constitutional reform and called for another extraordinary session to discuss the issue. ECOWAS Commission President Marcel Alain de Souza traveled to Lomé to try to resolve the crisis by calling on the opposition and the government “to continue the dialogue and carry out these reforms.” The opposition, for its part, intends to continue to fight the current battle with the sitting government, both in the streets and in the halls of Parliament. As for the consequences of this movement, as summarised on France 24 by Gilles Yabi from the think tank Wathi, “There is something moving in Togo, but it is still too early to know whether it is a historic turning point “... both in the capacity of the government to continue to resist and in the emergence of new opposition leaders.