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Central African Republic begins voting in a referendum on a new constitution

The Central African Republic (CAR) has commenced voting in a referendum on a new constitution, held on Sunday. The proposed constitution seeks to enable President Faustin-Archange Touadera to run for a third term in a country that has faced multiple coups.

Touadera secured a second term in 2020, with the mandate lasting until 2025, amid challenges posed by armed rebel groups and allegations of electoral fraud. However, his political opponents now accuse him of seeking to become a “president for life,” with support from the Russian mercenary group Wagner, which has become increasingly visible in CAR since its deployment in 2018.

The CAR, with a population of 5.5 million, is one of the world’s poorest countries. The voting was scheduled to begin at 6:00 am (0500 GMT) but experienced an hour’s delay in the opening of polling stations. Around 1.9 million people have been called upon to cast their ballots, with polling scheduled to close at 4:00 pm.

Provisional results are expected after eight days, while the definitive outcome will be published by the constitutional court on August 27, according to the national electoral authority.

The proposed constitution aims to extend the presidential mandate from five to seven years and abolish the two-term limit. The “yes” camp is predicted to prevail, according to opinion polls.

Despite the anticipated victory for the “yes” side, emphasis is being placed on participation, as noted by Evariste Ngamana, the vice-president of the national assembly and spokesperson for the presidential majority.

However, the main opposition parties, civil groups, and armed rebels have called for a boycott of the referendum. They have raised concerns about the absence of an up-to-date electoral register and the perceived lack of independence of institutions responsible for ensuring a free and fair vote.

In the capital city, Bangui, around 2,000 to 3,000 “yes” supporters held a final meeting on Friday to garner additional backing for the constitutional proposal. Despite such efforts, observers believe that the referendum might not generate significant interest among the general population, given the pressing economic and security challenges facing the majority of CAR’s citizens.


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