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November 21, 2010

Madagascar Approves New Constitution

Officials in Madagascar say voters have approved a new constitution that could keep coup leader Andry Rajoelina in power indefinitely.

The country's electoral commission said Monday that 74 percent of voters endorsed the charter in last week's referendum.  It put voter turnout for the poll at 53 percent.

The new constitution does not set a limit on the duration of Rajoelina's transitional government.  It also lowers the minimum age for presidential candidates from 40 to 35, enabling Rajoelina, who is 36, to stand in future presidential elections.

The poll will apparently do little to ease the government's international isolation.  On Saturday, a bloc of southern African countries said it does not recognize the referendum as legitimate.  Madagascar's three main opposition movements had called for a boycott of the vote.

Rajoelina came to power in the March 2009 army-backed coup that toppled President Marc Ravalomanana.  

Some dissident army officers announced they were seizing power last Wednesday, but failed to rally public support and were arrested three days later.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.