Central African Republic held a constitutional referendum on Sunday which, if passed, could allow President Faustin-Archange Touadera to run for a third term in 2025. Touadera was first elected in 2016 for a five-year term and won re-election in 2020 for what was supposed to be his final term in office.
The proposed new constitution would abolish the two-term limit and extend the presidential mandate from five to seven years, meaning the time Touadera or another candidate could serve as president would be unlimited.
Mathias Barthelemy Mourouba, head of the country’s electoral commission, told Reuters that provisional results are expected within seven days, but they will start releasing results from some polling stations on Monday.
Opposition parties and some civil society groups called for a boycott of the referendum, saying it was designed to keep Touadera in power for life.
Speaking after he voted in central Bangui on Sunday, Touadera said he was “serene because the new constitution was at the request of the Central African people”.
Turnout was meagre at a polling station in a northern suburb of the capital Bangui early on Sunday, with around two dozen voters in the queue, according to a Reuters reporter.
“I’m hoping that my friends will come out massively to vote. What I really want is stability for the country to progress,” said Laurent Ngombe, a teacher and one of the first people to vote.
The land-locked country, roughly the size of France and with a population of around 5.5 million, is rich in minerals including gold, diamond, and timber. It has witnessed waves instability, including coups and rebellions, since independence from France in 1960.
Touadera, 66, a mathematician, has struggled to quell rebel groups that have controlled pockets of the country since former President Francois Bozize was ousted by another rebellion in 2013.
Touadera turned to Russia for help in tackling the rebels in 2018. Since then, over 1,500 troops, including instructors and private military contractors from Russia’s Wagner group, have been deployed in the country alongside the national army.
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