CAR approves constitutional changes allowing president to seek third term

By Melissa Chemam with RFI

Voters in the Central African Republic overwhelmingly approved a draft constitution paving the way for President Faustin Archange Touadera to seek a third term as president. However NGOs and civil society groups accuse the government of circumventing democracy.

The CAR's National Election Authority announced the results of the 30 July referendum on Monday, with voters casting 95.27 percent of ballots in favour of the text.

Turnout was put at over 61 percent despite the vote being boycotted by the country's main opposition parties and civil society organisations, as well as armed rebel groups.

The provisional results must now be ratified by the constitutional court, scheduled to publish the definitive outcome on 27 August.

Potential third mandate

The new constitution is designed to extend the presidential mandate from five to seven years and abolish the two-term limit.

The incumbent 66-year-old head of state Touadera can now seek a third term in 2025. His rivals say he wants to remain "president for life".

Touadera was first elected in 2016, when the country emerged from a civil war that spiralled along sectarian lines following a coup.

To increase security, he brought in private Russian mercenary group Wagner, first deployed to the CAR in 2018.

In 2020, Touadera won a second five-year term after a vote interrupted by incursions by armed rebel groups, and allegations of fraud.

Since December 2020, hundreds of Wagner fighters and Rwandan troops have been deployed to face an offensive led by an alliance of the country's most powerful rebel groups.   

Lack of transparency   

The opposition also complained about the lack of an up-to-date electoral register and said institutions tasked with guaranteeing a free and fair vote were not independent.

"It's a comedy ... we've all seen that people didn't go out to vote and it doesn't reflect the will of the Central African people," Crepin Mboli-Goumba, coordinator of the BRDC opposition coalition, told AFP.

The NGO Human Rights Watch reports that government officials have "cajoled and threatened referendum opponents", and that authorities banned an opposition rally in the capital in a bid to keep a lid on hostility to the poll.

Touadera supporters are also accused of targeting the president of the Constitutional Court, Daniele Darlan, who was later was forced to retire.

A landlocked nation in central Africa, the CAR is considered one of the poorest and most troubled countries in the world.

It has been going through conflict and political turmoil for most of its history after independence from France in 1960.

(with AFP) 

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