Over 500 observers have been stopped from monitoring the February 22 general elections in the West African country of Togo.
The country’s National Election Commission has revoked the accreditation of the main observer group just a day to the polls.
In a letter dated February 17, the commission said it had cancelled the accreditation of the National Consultation of Civil Society of Togo to field their 500 observers nationwide, accusing it of “preparing to carry out interference” in the vote.
The move came after authorities blocked observers from the Catholic Church following criticism that the elections will not be free and fair.
The Togo Civil League has raised red flags over the decision to stop the observers from observing this weekend’s elections.
— Togo Civil League (@tcl_togo) February 19, 2020
Togolese have to decide whether to grant a fourth term to 53 year old Faure Gnassingbé who took office in 2005 after the death of his father Eyadema Gnassingbé.
The president pushed through constitutional changes 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 Gnassingbé has already served.
Gnassingbé is expected to face a challenge to his re-election from candidates like Jean-Pierre Fabre, 68 who is president of National Alliance for Change (ANC).
Fabre was the closest rival to Gnassingbe in the previous election in 2015 which had to be contested in court.