Togo’s ruling party has cruised to victory at the first local elections in 32 years in the West African nation that has been dominated by one family for decades, results said.

Voters in the country of 8 million people cast their ballots on Sunday at poll Western powers described as an “important step in strengthening local democracy”.

Some opposition parties took part after boycotting parliamentary elections last year in protest at President Faure Gnassingbe’s grip on power.

Gnassingbe has ruled the country for 15 years since he succeeded his father Eyadema Gnassingbe, who led the country with an iron first for 38 years after taking over in a coup.

Parliament in May approved a constitutional change allowing Gnassingbe to run two more times and potentially remain in office until 2030.

Preliminary results released late Friday by the electoral commission gave the ruling Union for the Republic 895 of the 1490 local council seats on offer.

The National Alliance for Change was second on 134 seats, ahead of two other opposition groupings.

Overall turnout was put at just over 52% but participation was low in the capital Lome.

The vote was not held in three areas of the country due to “technical reasons”.

The election came almost two years after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in Lome and other cities in anti-government protests, leading to deadly clashes.

Protests again erupted earlier this year in Togo, sandwiched between Ghana and Benin, but have since waned.

Political activists have been detained by security forces and the police.

The previous councillors elected in local elections in Togo governed for 14 years from 1987, despite being elected on five-year terms.

Councillors were later replaced with “special delegations”, tasked with organising new elections, whose positions were often filled with figures hand-picked by the government.