BANGUI, Central African Republic — Voters in the troubled Central African Republic overwhelmingly backed a constitutional referendum, clearing the way for parliamentary and presidential polls on Sunday.
Electoral officials said on Monday that 93 per cent voted in favour of the reforms limiting the president's tenure to two terms, fighting institutional corruption and reining in armed militias.
The referendum was seen as a test run for the much-delayed elections set for Sunday aimed at ending more than two years of sectarian conflict.
The new basic law will usher in the sixth republic since independence from France in 1960 and mark the 13th political regime in a country notorious for its chronic instability.
The poor former French colony is trying to get back on its feet since being plunged into conflict after a mainly Muslim rebellion overthrew longtime Christian leader Francois Bozize in 2013.
Violence marred the December 13-14 balloting, with five people killed and 20 injured in an attack in the flashpoint Muslim-majority PK-5 district of Bangui.
Hundreds of people headed to the UN peacekeeping headquarters last Wednesday to demand the expulsion of the "enemies of peace" in PK-5.
Almost two million Central Africans had registered to vote in a population of 4.8 million, a clear sign of a widespread desire to return to a life of peace and normalcy.
But turnout was only 38 per cent, said Marie Madeleine N'kouet Hoornaert, president of the National Elections Authority.
Many of the 5,600 polling stations were located in remote areas accessible only by dirt roads. And of the 460,000 people displaced by the unrest living in camps across Central African Republic's borders – many of them Muslims – only 26 per cent had been able to register.
Results for the capital Bangui were known December 17, with 90 per cent in favour and a turnout of 30 per cent. — AFP