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Togolese to Vote on Presidential Term Limits; Opposition Angry

FILE Incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe casts his ballot in Lome, April 25, 2015. The election gave Gnassingbe a third term in office.

Togo will hold a referendum in the coming days on limiting presidential terms, after parliament failed Tuesday to put such a change into the country's constitution.

Announcing the decision to put the constitutional change to a popular vote, parliament head Drama Dramani told lawmakers: "You have voted for the revision of the constitution, but it's the people who will decide, by referendum, in the next few days."

Even though 62 of 63 lawmakers present backed the bill to set a two-term limit on the presidency, an opposition boycott meant the vote fell short of the four-fifths majority required to change the constitution.

Opposition members were angry that the measure did not include a clause that would make Faure Gnassingbe's ongoing presidency illegal and, with the possibility of two more five-year terms, could leave him in power until 2030.

Gnassingbe, now in his third term and whose family has ruled the former French colony for 50 years, had been president since succeeding his late father in 2005.

Thousands of people have joined anti-government demonstrations this month and more protests are planned for Wednesday and Thursday.

Gnassingbe's opponents have been seeking term limits for more than a decade, to align the former French colony with most of its West African neighbors.