Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Another attempt to impose presidential term limits in Togo

Legislators in Togo are seeking a constitutional amendment to impose a two-term limit on the presidency. They made a similar attempt two years ago, in the run-up to the 2015 election. If history is a reliable guide, they will fail again.

Most Togolese citizens support presidential term limits. And yet their current president won his third term last year, after his father won five elections (two unopposed).

The current Togolese Constitution (of 1992) originally had a two-term limit. At the time, the president was in a position of relative weakness. By 2002, however, the president had consolidated power and the constitution was amended to eliminate term limits, so he could run for a third term in 2003.

Ghanaian constitutional amendment to always hold vote the day before US presidential election

The Ghanaian parliamentary select committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs is working on a constitutional amendment for the elections to be held on the first Monday in November of every election year. Ghanaian election years, since 1992, are always during US presidential election years, and US election day is the Tuesday after the first Monday of November. 

A funny coincidence? Maybe not. Joseph Asunka finds that many African transition elections (the first multiparty election after a period without such elections) were timed to be close to the US election in order to avoid scrutiny. US presidential elections can be very distracting, which takes political observers attention away from any potential shenanigans by former dictators holding multiparty elections for the first time. 

Which is not to say that Ghana's political leadership is seeking cover for political shenanigans this year. According to Freedom House, Ghana was only "Partly Free" with respect to political rights and civil liberties in 1992 (an improvement from "Not Free" in 1991), when President Rawlings led his NDC party to victory, and improved to "Free" in 2000, the first year the NPP party won the presidency. The NPP won re-election 2004, but in 2008 and 2012 the NDC has won, and Ghana continues to be scored as "Free" by Freedom House. 

Nonetheless, the NPP accused the NDC of "stealing votes" in the close 2012 election. The 2016 election may be close as well - the economy has slowed from 14% in 2011 to 4% last year, but NDC has incumbency advantages and the NPP has some divisions.