Referendum to extend presidential term kicks off in Tunisia
Tunisians began voting on Sunday in a referendum to change the constitution and allow President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to rule until the year 2014 at least.
The first national referendum since this North African country gained independence from France in 1956 was for 3.6 million registered voters to approve amendments to around half of the constitution's 78 articles.
Ben Ali took office in November 1987 - an event known as "The Change" - when then president-for-life Habib Bourguiba, the founder of modern-day Tunisia, was declared senile. He has been credited with bringing social stability and steady economic growth in the Muslim country.
The Tunisian leader, who was last re-elected in the year 1999 with 99.5 percent of the vote would, under the amended constitution, be allowed to seek re-election in 2004 and again in 2009 to rule until the year 2014.
Over 15,000 polling stations opened at 8 a.m. (local time) and are expected to close 12 hours later.
Approval of the reforms by a wide margin was widely expected. The word "yes" was printed on a white ballot, the word "no" on a black ballot. The reforms would create a second house of parliament, the Chamber of Councilors. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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