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Last Updated: Monday, 7 February, 2005, 13:20 GMT
Togo deputies legitimise 'coup'
Faure Gnassingbe
Faure Gnassingbe can now serve out his father's term
Togo's parliament has approved the son of late leader Gnassingbe Eyadema as his successor, paving the way for him to rule unchallenged until 2008.

Deputies dismissed the parliament's speaker, who, under the constitution, should have assumed power after President Eyadema's death on Saturday.

The assembly changed the constitution, allowing Faure Gnassingbe, 39, to complete his father's term.

Togo's army was criticised for what the African Union called a "military coup".

Borders closed

On Sunday, parliament voted to remove speaker Fambare Natchaba Ouattara, who had been returning to Togo from Paris when President Eyadema's death was announced on Saturday.

Map showing the location of Togo
While the constitution stipulates the speaker should take power in the event of the president's death, he was apparently unable to enter the country because the borders were closed.

MPs also passed a change to the constitution so that there is now no legal requirement to hold elections in Togo within 60 days of a leader's death.

The new article states that the president of the national assembly succeeds the president and can stay in office until the end of the previous president's mandate.

Mr Faure was unanimously voted head of the national assembly.

President Eyadema was elected for a five-year term in June 2003, which means his son can now rule until June 2008.

'Military coup'

The streets of the capital, Lome, were earlier reported to be deserted, with some mourning the loss of President Eyadema after 38 years in power, and others quietly celebrating the end of his rule.

File photograph of President Gnassingbe Eyadema from 2003
Gnassingbe Eyadema rose to power in a military coup
World figures have denounced Togo's army for its role in the transition of power.

The African Union, currently keen to promote better governance on the continent, spoke of a "military coup".

The UN, EU and former ruler France had also demanded respect for the constitution.

France put its troops in West African countries on alert while the EU warned ties with Togo could suffer.

The exiled Togo opposition leader, Gilchrist Olympio, has called for a presidential election to be held at the same time as a general election due this year.

Togo's army, which was prospered from Eyadema's rule, has defended its actions.

Army Chief of Staff Gen Zakari Nandja said on Saturday that the decision to hand power to Faure Gnassingbe had been taken to avoid a power vacuum.

Eyadema, 69, Africa's longest-serving ruler, died while being evacuated for medical treatment abroad - reportedly from a heart attack.

After seizing power 38 years ago, he dissolved all political parties and governed unchallenged for more than two decades.

He legalised political parties in 1991, as a result of popular pressure, and won three elections.

But accusations of political repression and electoral fraud continued.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
How African states are reacting to changes in Togo



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