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Central African Republic voters overwhelmingly approved a new constitution following a referendum last month, a vote that could extend the term of incumbent President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, the BBC reported Monday.

Officials announced this week that more than 95 percent backed the constitutional amendments, although critics noted that turnout was as low as 10 percent.

The new charter will scrap the two-term limit for the president and allow Touadéra, who was re-elected in 2020, to run for a third term. The changes would also extend the presidential mandate from five to seven years.

Touadéra’s opponents challenged the referendum and accused the president of trying to stay in power forever. Civil society groups and armed rebels called for a boycott of the plebiscite.

But human rights groups noted that the government threatened and harassed opponents of the referendum, including banning protests against it.

Touadéra first floated the idea of a plebiscite last March during a national dialogue aimed at reconciliation with the opposition. However, the Constitutional Court rejected the proposal in September 2022, leading to the cancellation of a committee responsible for drafting a new constitution, the Turkish-based TRT World added.

Still, Touadéra replaced the court’s president, Daniele Darlan, with Jean-Pierre Waboue, who deemed the referendum project to be legal.

The president has claimed that the existing 2016 constitution does not adequately represent the aspirations of the people of the country.

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