People in the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan have voted overwhelmingly to approve changes to the Constitution allowing the authoritarian president to rule indefinitely.

Elections officials said Monday that an initial count showed 94.5 percent of voters had supported amendments that included a provision to scrap presidential term limits.

The referendum was held with only cursory international scrutiny. No election in Tajikistan has ever been deemed free and fair by the most thorough monitoring organization.

Sunday's referendum came amid an intense onslaught against fundamental political freedoms in the former Soviet state. Almost the entire leadership of the most popular opposition party has been tried over an alleged attempted coup and they are awaiting lengthy jail sentences.

Emomali Rakhmon, a 63-year-old former collective farm boss, has ruled Tajikistan since 1992.