|The new constitution is favourable to President Andry Rajoelina, who took power in 2009 [EPA]|
Madagascar’s new constitution has been approved by nearly three-quarters of voters in a referendum held last week, according to provisional results from the country’s electoral body.
With votes counted from more than 99 per cent of polling stations, 74.13 per cent of ballots were “Yes” votes. Turnout was around 53 per cent, authorities said.
The vote was widely seen as a test of confidence for Andry Rajoelina, the current president. The three main opposition parties had urged their supporters to boycott the poll.
Rajoelina seized power in a military coup last year, and was hoping to use the referendum to rubberstamp his rule until elections he has promised next year.
Rajoelina has faced several challenges to his leadership, most recently last week, when dissident soldiers attempted a coup.
Security forces stormed a base housing the rebels on Saturday, and the coup-plotters handed themselves in after a brief gun battle.
Under the new constitution, the president will be allowed to extend his term in power.
Al Jazeera’s Tania Page, reporting from Madagascar, said that Rajoelina had made sure the terms of the new constitution were favourable for him in case he chose to run in any future election.
“He certainly has gone out of his way to ensure that he has come out on top in this,” she said. “This will lower the age that someone can legally be president in Madagascar to 35. President Rajoelina is 36 himself and although he previously said he wouldn’t run for the presidency in an election, this leaves the door open for him to do so.”
The country’s military has suffered from rifts since Rajoelina’s 2009 coup, when he toppled Marc Ravalomanana, the then leader, and scrapped the old constitution.
That coup, which had backing from large parts of the military, created turmoil on the Indian Ocean island, prized by foreign investors for its oil, nickel, cobalt and uranium deposits.
Africa’s youngest leader, Rajoelina rose to power on wave of popular support, galvanising widespread anger over Ravalomanana’s increasingly autocratic style of leadership.
But some analysts say Rajoelina’s failure to end the leadership squabbles and deliver on populist pledges have eroded his popularity.