People in Togo are heading to the polls on Monday to vote in delayed parliamentary and regional elections amid tensions over a new constitution extending the president’s term.

Opposition parties argue that the reform passed by lawmakers last week is a ruse to keep President Faure Gnassingbé – already in his fourth term – in power.

The change allows him to remain president until 2031, critics say, after which he could be appointed to the new position of “president of the council of ministers” – in effect prime minister – continuing his family’s 57-year rule.

The polls were initially set for 20 April but were postponed by Mr Gnassingbé to allow for “consultations”.

Some critics have voiced scepticism about the credibility of the election, after the authorities temporarily stopped election accreditation for foreign press, AFP news agency reported.

Opposition parties have urged their supporters to turn out in high numbers

The Conference of Togolese Catholic Bishops, which criticised the reform, was also blocked from deploying election observers, AFP added.

About four million voters will choose 113 lawmakers and 179 regional deputies, who along with municipal councillors will install a newly created senate.

Opposition parties boycotted Togo’s last election and are poorly represented in parliament, which led to the disputed reform passing almost unanimously.

This time, they have urged their supporters to turn out for the vote in high numbers.

Supporters of President Gnassingbé however argue that his continued rule will boost development.