A matter of margins

The UK and Togo: when governments change constituency boundaries

When it comes to laying out the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies, London and Lome have different approaches.

There has been a lot of argument in the British press over the issue of Conservative and Liberal Democrats working or not working together to ensure the coalition government (made up of their parties) continues. Most recently, the UK’s Liberal Democrat Deputy PM Nick Clegg has said that he will not support the boundary changes plans put forward by David Cameron, the Conservative British Prime Minister.

In what seems a simple tit-for-tat move, Clegg said that the Conservatives’ failure to back his Liberal Democrat idea for how to reform the UK’s upper chamber, the House of Lords, resulted in a breach of the Coalition Agreement and left him with no option but to pull out of the boundary changes policy. Clegg may be cross but at least Cameron has not fired tear gas at him or his rowdy Liberal Democrats.

Last week, police in Togo used the lachrymose repellent along with rubber bullets to try to calm riotous anti-government protesters, most of whom form part of the opposition coalition’s ‘Save Togo’ campaign. The Togolese demonstrators are voicing general rhetoric at their regular rallies but one specific focus for their anger is the government’s decision to increase the number of constituencies represented in the Assemblée Nationale from 81 to 91. As such, the protesters want a repeal of laws that they complain the government pushed through illegally.

The parliamentary seat expansion in Togo is the opposite of the UK government’s plan to reduce the number of constituencies from 650 to 600 and to try to equalise the number of voters that each MP has. Just like in Togo, there is opposition to the plans, but in the UK it is likely that the Conservatives’ proposed policy will be defeated. The Tories’ government allies the Liberal Democrats, the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party are all against the suggested changes.

The UK parliament officially returns to work next week after its summer break and the boundary changes argument will restart. However, the shouting and foot-stamping in the UK differs from the situation in Togo, despite the closeness of the two policies. With a parliamentary election in October, and with opposition public sit-ins scheduled for this week, the civil unrest and police activity in Togo over similar governmental plans shows where the two countries differ most in this similar issue.

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