Togo's President Faure Gnassingbe has accepted his party's nomination as a candidate for elections in April and will seek a third term in power, defying calls from the opposition to step aside.
With the opposition divided between multiple candidates, Gnassingbe is widely seen as favorite to win the April 15 poll.
“It is through duty to our dear country and loyalty to our ideals that I have the honor to accept to be a presidential candidate for our party UNIR,” he said following a Union for the Republic party convention late on Wednesday.
Gnassingbe was installed as president of the small West African country with army support when his father, who had been in power 38 years, died in 2005. He later stepped down under regional pressure, but won an election months later and was re-elected for a second term in 2010.
Unlike some of its neighbors, Togo does not have constitutional term limits, having abolished them in 2002. An agreement with the opposition in 2006 recommended reinstating them but the government has not done so. Critics led protests late last year calling for limits to be established.
So far, officials say that seven opposition candidates have registered for the election and additional candidates must present themselves by February 28.
Alberto Olympio, president of Parti des Togolais, said the country was not yet ready for elections and called for additional reform measures.
“If we do not carry out reforms before the elections that ensure transparency, then we will fall back into our old demons which led to hundreds of people being killed in Togo in 2005,” he told Reuters.
More than 400 people died in violence during that election, according to a U.N. inquiry, although the government said the death toll was lower.
Some members of the opposition have drawn hope from events in neighboring Burkina Faso, where mass protests in October drove out longtime president Blaise Compaore as he sought to revise the constitution to seek another term in office.
The United States has repeatedly urged African leaders to add term limits to their constitutions and respect those limits if they already exist.