Brazzaville - Republic of Congo's president Denis Sassou Nguesso on Tuesday announced a referendum on changes to the constitution that could allow him to run for a third term in office in elections next year.
Sassou Nguesso, 71, who has ruled oil-producing Congo for 31 years in two separate spells in office, is banned by the current constitution from seeking another term.
However, he called a national forum in July to discuss reforms including raising the maximum age for presidential candidates and scrapping the two-term limit, feeding expectations he will seek to extend his rule in polls next year.
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"I have decided to directly give a voice to the people in order for them to decide on the draft law formulating the fundamental principles of the Republic," he said in a speech.
A commission, the composition of which is not yet known, must propose a new draft constitution before a date is chosen for the referendum.
Sassou Nguesso is one of a number of veteran African leaders who have sparked controversy with plans to extend their time in office through constitutional changes.
The president replaced two of his cabinet ministers last month after they took part in an opposition-organised meeting that called for resistance against any attempts to revise the constitution.