Home | News    Monday 6 June 2005

Chadians begin voting on constitutional revision


N’DJAMENA, June 6 (AFP) — Polling stations in Chad opened Monday morning for a referendum on a constitutional change which would permit incumbent President Idriss Deby to stand for a currently-barred third term in 2006.

The first stations in Chad’s still-dozing capital opened at 7:00 am time (0600 GMT) according to local AFP journalists. Numbering more than 10,800 across the sparsely-populated country, they are to remain open until 6:00 pm(1700 GMT).

More than 5.3 million Chadians are eligible to vote on the constitutional revision bill adopted in May 2004 by the country’s national assembly, but 26 opposition parties have called for a boycott, making the turnout uncertain.

The current constitution, dating from 1996, limits presidential office to two terms. The change would remove this limit completely.

The opposiiton parties argue that the ballot is a "masquerade" solely designed to "turn the country into a monarchy."

Deby, a former guerrilla leader who first came to power in a coup in December 1990, six years later won Chad’s first multi-party presidential election since the country gained independence from France in 1960.

He was re-elected in 2001, and survived an attempted coup last year.

The 53 year-old Chadian leader was weakened in the coup, and faces a precarious security situation in the east of the country, which has become home to 200,000 refugees from neighbouring Sudan’s ravaged Darfur region.

Deby denies charges that he wants to be president for life and is grooming his son to succeed him.

Chad’s semi-official electoral commission is expected to release the referendum’s results within two weeks.

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