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Tajikistan: Voters Asked To Extend President's Term

Dushanbe, 22 June 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Voters in Tajikistan head to the polls today to vote on a referendum which includes more than 50 amendments to the constitution. The most controversial amendment is one which would allow President Imomali Rakhmonov to run for two more terms of seven years after his current mandate expires in 2006.

Opposition leaders have expressed strong criticism of the amendment.

The Democratic Party and the Moscow-based Tajik National Movement say they will boycott the vote.

The Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party are calling on people to vote "no" instead of boycotting.

First elected in 1994, Rakhmonov, 50, was re-elected in 1999 with a seven-year mandate under the terms of a new constitution that barred him from running again.

The amendment being voted on today would allow him to run for two consecutive terms after his current mandate expires, leaving him in office until 2020.

Among the other amendments being voted on are the legalization of alternative, private education and paid health care.