Gnassingbe, installed by the military in 2005 after the death of his autocrat father Gnassingbe Eyadema who had ruled for 38 years, has given no indication that he intends to stand down before next year’s polls, according to The Times.

Experts agreed that the divided opposition has little leverage over the entrenched regime and must unite to have any hope of challenging Gnassingbe.

Let’s Save Togo and Arc-de-ciel, the two main opposition groups, have not ruled out fielding a single candidate next year and with the date of the election not yet set, they still have several months to organise a unified campaign.

For now, both camps have rallied behind the need for political reform, highlighted by a constitutional amendment imposing a two-term limit that could in theory bar Gnassingbe from running again.

“These reforms are absolutely indispensible to ensure peace and transparency in the next election,” said Eric Dupuy of Let’s Save Togo, the larger of the two opposition coalitions.

The national assembly, where the president’s loyalists have a majority, rejected the reform bill on June 30.