6.3 million registered voters in the Ivory Coast are expected to select ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ in the referendum vote which commenced Sunday at 8am.
The poll results will determine the country’s position on the new constitution which stipulates the creation of a post of Vice President, a Senate, a House of traditional chiefs, compulsory education and five-year term for the President among others.
24,000 police officers and 4,500 soldiers have been deployed throughout the country to maintain security during the polls which could be affected by a low turnout due to the opposition boycott.
The main Ivorian opposition party, Alliance of Democratic Forces Ivory Coast (AFD-CI), and its allies demonstrated last week and called for a boycott of the referendum vote as well as a total withdrawal of the new draft constitution which they claim is a step backward for democracy.
At the heart of the opposition’s dispute is a clause that relaxes the previous requirement that presidential candidates should have both parents born in Ivory Coast. Also, the removal of the maximum age limit (75 years) for presidential candidates.
The government led by the president engaged in vigorous campaigning for the ‘Yes’ vote which will be represented by a green ballot while the ‘No’ will be represented by a red ballot.
Voting is expected to end at 18:00 GMT and the results declared by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in a maximum of four days.
This is the second referendum in the West African country and if the ‘Yes’ wins, the new constitution will be the third for the country.