THE Republic of Congo’s ruling party called for a change in the constitution ahead of elections next year in which opposition parties say President Denis Sassou-Nguesso will seek a third term in office.
“Changing the constitution is a necessity,” Pierre Ngolo, secretary-general of the Congolese Labour Party, told reporters in the capital, Brazzaville, on Friday.
The constitution of 2002, which limits the number of presidential terms to two and restricts candidates over 70 from competing, “has had its day,” Ngolo said.
Sassou-Nguesso, 71, led the country from 1979 to 1992 and then returned to power at the end of a civil war in 1997. He was elected in 2002 and 2009 in elections whose results were disputed by the opposition. The term limits were set when the new constitution was introduced in 2002.
The ruling party first called for a change in the constitution on December 31, to enable Sassou-Nguesso to run again. In January, 102 political parties, associations, non- governmental organizations and individuals backed the call. Opposition and civil society representatives said they would oppose any changes to the charter.
“The Congolese Labor Party will not lose power in 2016,” Ngolo said. “We want change for the future of the country, to ensure peace and stability.”
Catholic bishops in the Central African nation on January 9, urged politicians to reconsider proposed changes to the constitution, saying that a once-renewable presidential mandate should become an “immutable rule” in Congo. They also called for the establishment of a credible independent electoral commission.
Togo only recently announced its presidential election will take place on April 15. Given the short time political parties have to prepare, it is likely that the date was an electoral ploy, with president Faure Gnassingbe, 48, expected to run for a third term.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a move by president Joseph Kabila to extend his stay led to the eruption of violence late January in which dozens were killed and shops belonging to foreigners looted.
Kabila backed down, but it might only be to regroup, as he has refused to comment on his political future.
In Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza also looks set to successfully muscle his way into a third term election shortly, despite wide-ranging opposition.
Sudan’s Omar Hassan al-Bashir overcame a weakened opposition, and will stand in April elections.