Voters in Burundi have overwhelmingly approved a new constitution, the electoral commission said on Monday, ushering in changes that could let the president stay in power to 2034.
Seventy-three percent voted in last week’s referendum in favour of amendments extending the presidential term from five to seven years and allowing President Pierre Nkurunziza to seek two more terms, beginning in 2020.
Commission chairman Pierre Claver Ndayicariye told a news conference that 96 percent of the 4.7 million registered voters cast ballots last Thursday.
Rights groups said campaigning and the vote itself took place in a climate of fear and intimidation. The government had denied the vote would be anything but free and fair.
Opposition leaders say the changes to the constitution will allow Nkurunziza — whose party gave him the title this year of Supreme Eternal Guide — to be above the law.
The 54-year-old first came to power in 2005 at the end of a long civil war in which 300,000 died. The East African country has broadly the same ethnic make-up as neighbouring Rwanda, where 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by Hutu extremists in a 1994 genocide.