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Home >> World
UPDATED: 11:13, January 12, 2006
DR Congo's new constitution ratified in referendum
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Voters in the Democratic Republic of Congo strongly approved a new constitution in a referendum with a rating of 84.31 percent, paving the way for general elections in March, an electoral official said late Wednesday.

Electoral commission chief Appolinaire Malumalu said the results would be referred to the country's high court for confirmation.

He said 15.5 million voters out of a total of 25.02 million cast ballots in the referendum on Dec. 18-19, and that the turnout had reached 61.97 percent.

The referendum in the central African country was generally conducted in a calm and transparent manner, and in accordance with the law, according to Malumalu, who said however, that 1687 fraud cases had been found in the voting.

The new constitution grants greater autonomy to mineral-rich provinces, allows the direct election of the president by voters, and limits any one president to a maximum of two five-year terms.

It also lowers the minimum age for presidential candidates from 35 to 30, thus allowing an election bid by 33-year-old President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the Europe-sized country since his father's 2001 assassination.

The constitution is considered crucial to securing peace after two wars, the first in 1996-1997 and another from 1998-2002 which involved the armies of six African nations.

The country's first parliamentary and presidential elections in decades are slated for March, but no specific date has been fixed.

Source: Xinhua


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