The Constitutional Court of the Central African Republic, or CAR, has validated the results of the July 30 constitutional referendum. According to the Court, 95.3 percent of the votes were cast in favor of the referendum, with a turnout of just over 57 percent. Opponents of the party in power say the turnout was much lower. Political challengers and some civil society groups had called for a boycott of the referendum.
Among other changes, the new constitution, which was proposed by CAR President Faustin Archange Touadera last year, extends the presidential term from five to seven years and does away with the two-term limit for presidents. Touadera’s opponents have denounced the provision, saying it creates a “life presidency” for Touadera.
In a statement, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said the change in CAR’s rules for the presidency “undercuts the country’s democratic governance.”
“We believe that regular peaceful transitions of power yield strong institutions and more stable and prosperous countries,” he wrote. “The United States notes with deep reservations reports of low voter participation and concerns over the secrecy of the ballot. Free and fair elections, with inclusive electoral processes are essential for any democracy.”
CAR President Touadera was first elected to the country’s top office in 2016 in an election which international observers deemed free and fair. The election occurred after the former president, Francois Bozize, was ousted in 2013, and competing armed groups intensified their fighting with devastating results for the civilian population. In 2019 the CAR government signed a peace and reconciliation agreement with 14 armed groups. Violence in the country, however, increased again in the run-up to the 2020 presidential race, which ended with the reelection of President Touadera. Conflict and violence continued.
Now the goal for an end to the fighting in CAR and for true democratic governance in one of Africa’s poorest and most strife-filled countries seems to be receding. That goal must be upheld, not undermined.
In his statement, Spokesperson Miller called on the CAR government “to announce a date for local elections in which all Central Africans can express their views at the ballot box. The United States,” he said, “stresses the importance of all stakeholders in CAR, including the government, political opposition, and civil society to engage in the country’s electoral processes transparently, constructively, and peacefully.