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Last Updated: Monday, 23 June, 2003, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK
Tajiks approve longer presidency
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov (L) with Russian President Vladimir Putin
Mr Rakhmonov could now be in power until 2020
Tajikistan has voted overwhelmingly to amend the country's constitution and give its president, Emomali Rakhmonov, up to 14 more years in power.

More than 90% of voters supported a package of sweeping constitutional changes in Sunday's poll, according to the country's election commission.

The most controversial of these changes was a proposal to allow two consecutive seven-year presidential terms, instead of just one.

This means Mr Rakhmonov could now stay in office for another 17 years, as he still has three years of his current term to run.

Both the United States and the European security organisation, the OSCE, declined to send representatives to monitor the poll.

Lack of information

Before Sunday's elections, Tajik television showed pictures of polling stations, voting booths and officials, to prove the country was ready for the election.

But BBC Central Asia correspondent Catherine Davis said that Tajiks on the streets of the capital, Dushanbe, had a rather different view.

Many of them said they did not really know what the referendum was about, our correspondent says.

Some said they first heard of it when a ballot paper was delivered to their homes.

Together with the amendment to the presidential term in office, another 50amendments and clarifications were included in the package voted through on Sunday.

The other changes were mostly of a technical nature, or concerned social issues.

Before the poll took place, there was concern over the lack of public debate on the issue.

Critics also said that with such different amendments, people should not be asked to vote only yes or no to the whole package.

In Central Asia it is not unusual for presidents to seek to extend their term, or for a leader to be declared president for life.

Leaders of other ex-Soviet Central Asian states - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan - have all extended their leaders' presidency through similar votes, and Turkmenistan's leader Saparmurat Niyazov has been made president-for-life.

For most people in Tajikistan, which suffered a five-year civil war, peace and stability are what are important at the end of the day, our correspondent says.




SEE ALSO:
Timeline: Tajikistan
11 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Tajikistan
11 Mar 03  |  Country profiles



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