Ouagadougou - Dozens of prominent figures in Burkina Faso's ruling party have resigned, showing deep political divisions created by fears that President Blaise Compaore may push through changes to the constitution to stay in power next year.
State newspaper Sidwaya on Monday published a list of 75 members of the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), including the party's former leader and an ex-president of the National Assembly, who quit the party accusing Compaore of crushing internal dissent.
Compaore, in power since 1987, secured a strong majority in parliamentary elections late last year that critics and allies have said could be used to tweak the constitution to run again in a 2015 vote. Compaore has not ruled out seeking re-election.
The gradual deepening of democracy in Africa has contributed to increased stability and growth in some countries on the continent but Burkina Faso could be a test case as the terms of a batch of long-serving leaders come to an end.
In their resignation letter, the politicians said the CDP had turned into an "old boy's club" and warned that the lack of democracy within the party threatened the country as a whole.
Most of those who resigned had fallen out of favour during the party's last congress in 2012.
Sources close to the politicians said that they were likely to announce the creation of a new opposition party in coming days.
Poor and landlocked, Burkina Faso has emerged as a significant gold producer and an ally for Western governments concerned about the rise of extremist Islamist groups in the region.
Compaore has won four elections since he came to power in 1987 coup. The opposition has often complained that the polls were rigged.
Over the next two years, the leaders of Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo are also due to step aside unless they change their constitutions.