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Congo Plans Referendum on 3rd Presidential Term

FILE - President of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou-Nguesso.

The Congo Republic’s government has announced it will hold a referendum October 25 on a change to the constitution that would allow veteran President Denis Sassou Nguesso to stand for a third term in next year's national elections.

The 71-year-old former military commander has ruled Congo Republic, an oil producer, for all but five years since 1979. He won his previous terms in disputed elections in 2002 and 2009.

The constitution of 2002 limits the number of presidential terms to two and excludes candidates over 70 years old. Sassou Nguesso has declined to say if he wants to run for another term.

A move by Burkina Faso a year ago to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to seek a third term led to a popular uprising that toppled him after 27 years in power.

"The government is charged with putting the constitutional project at the disposition of the Congolese so that its contents can be widely diffused and debated," said government spokesman Thierry Lezin Moungalla late Monday.

With several long-time African leaders approaching term limits in the coming years, including in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, the political maneuvering in Brazzaville is being closely watched.

Moungalla said the campaign will run from October 9 through 23.