Congo Republic’s Ruling Party Wants New Constitution Before Vote

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 Labor 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 Dec. 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 Jan. 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.

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