HARARE - Zimbabweans have approved a new constitution that curbs the powers of the president and puts the turbulent southern African country a step closer to holding full elections in the next few months, the election commission said on Tuesday.
Nearly 95 percent of voters in a referendum approved the new charter which was supported by President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, political rivals who were forced into a power-sharing deal after disputed elections in 2008.
The official turnout, at slightly more than half the 6 million eligible voters, was higher than many analysts had expected.
The new charter sets a maximum of two five-year terms for the president. However, the limit will not apply retroactively, so Mugabe, 89 and in power since independence from Britain in 1980, could rule for the next decade.
Presidential decrees will also require majority backing in the cabinet, and declaring emergency rule or dissolving parliament will need the approval of two-thirds of lawmakers, changes that will take effect after the next election.
A new constitution and a referendum were conditions of the 2008 power-sharing deal and Tsvangirai has said there would be no point in holding new elections without a new supreme law.