Voters in Tajikistan have overwhelmingly endorsed changes to its constitution allowing the president, Emomali Rahmon, to run for an unlimited number of terms. In a statement, the central election commission said 94.5% of votes cast in Sunday’s referendum had backed the 40 constitutional changes, while only 3.3% were against. Turnout in the former Soviet central Asian country was 92%, or just over 4 million people, the CEC said. As well as lifting the term limit for Rahmon, the amendments also lower the minimum age for presidential candidates from 35 to 30, and ban the formation of parties based on religion.
The 63-year-old autocrat has ruled Tajikistan for nearly a quarter of a century, demonstrating what critics say is an increased disregard for religious freedoms, civil society and political pluralism in recent years.
But residents voting on Sunday in Dushanbe, the country’s capital and home to nearly a million people, appeared enthusiastic in their support for Rahmon, who led the country out of a five-year civil war that began in 1992, less than a year after independence.
“Rahmon brought us peace, he ended the war, and he should rule the country for as long as he has the strength to,” voter Nazir Saidzoda, 53, told AFP on Sunday.