The Democratic Republic of Congo's top court says President Joseph Kabila can stay in office beyond his mandate if the presidential election is delayed.
Congo's Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday according to clause 70 of the constitution, the current president remains in office until a newly-elected president is installed.
The decision comes amid rising political tension in Congo, where opposition parties have accused President Kabila of trying to hang onto power by delaying polls that are due this year.
Kabila's term expires in December, and the 44-year-old president is constitutionally barred from running for a new term.
Opposition parties quickly denounced the court's decision.
Vital Kamerhe, leader of the Union for the Congolese Nation, called the ruling "a disguised constitutional amendment and a referendum that dare not speak its name."
In an interview with VOA French to Africa, Kamerhe said he "calls on the Congolese people to mobilize" and said he believes that "the Constitutional Court signed his [Kabila's] death warrant."
Kabila succeeded his assassinated father, Laurent, as president in January 2001, then won disputed elections in 2006 and 2011.
In a phone call with Kabila in March, U.S. President Barack Obama called on the DRC to hold timely and credible elections that respect the country's constitution.