Brazzaville – Congo Republic’s ruling coalition is seeking a change in the constitution before elections next year that would lift restrictions on veteran President Denis Sassou Nguesso seeking a new term, a senior member said.
The constitution of 2002 limits the number of presidential terms to two and excludes candidates of more than 70 years of age in the oil-producing nation.
That would rule out Sassou-Nguesso, a 71-year-old former military commander, who took power in 1997 at the end of a civil war before winning disputed elections in 2002 and 2009. He had previously ruled the former French colony from 1979 to 1992.
Jean Medard Mapika, president of the Congolese Health Front (FCS) that forms part of the ruling coalition, said the constitutional reform did not directly concern Sassou-Nguesso, who has not officially declared his candidacy for 2016.
Term limits in Africa
“Changing the constitution would simply mean allowing our country to move toward development in peace. But, let’s say it frankly, it would allow the statesman Denis Sassou N’Guesso to continue the great projects that he began many years ago to develop Congo,” Mapika told Reuters.
Sassou Nguesso’s ruling Congolese Workers Party (PCT) reportedly called last week for constitutional change to lift the age and term restrictions for the presidency.
The FCS is calling on Sassou-Nguesso to convene a constitutional assembly grouping all the political parties to amend the 2002 charter.
With several veteran African leaders approaching term limits in Africa in the coming years, including in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, the push to drop term limits in Congo Republic is being closely watched.
Burkina Faso’s former president Blaise Compaore was toppled by street protests in October when he attempted to change the constitution to remove a term limit for the presidency.