BANGUI - Allies of Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera have proposed changes to the constitution that would let him keep running for office, prompting protests from the opposition.
Backers of the plan to remove presidential term limits said it was meant to bring the country into line with many of its neighbours, and was not a ploy to keep 65-year-old Touadera in power.
But Crépin Mboli Goumba, president of the opposition Patrie party, said his members would be "intransigent" in seeking to block the change.
Several African presidents, including in Rwanda, Congo Republic, Ivory Coast and Guinea, have pushed through constitutional and other legal changes in recent years to allow themselves to stay in office.
Activists and watchdog groups say this trend is undermining faith in democracy and has contributed to the spate of military coups in West African countries over the past two years.
The amendments, tabled in parliament on Thursday, would alter a clause which says presidents can only run twice.
Touadera was first elected in 2016 following a civil war unleashed by the overthrow three years earlier of former president Francois Bozize.
Touadera was re-elected in 2020 amid an offensive by rebel groups that briefly threatened the capital Bangui. The next vote is due in 2025.
The presidency did not respond to a request for comment on the proposed changes on Friday.
"The modification of Article 35 does not in any way signify keeping the current president in office, the office of president of the republic being elective and not appointed," Brice Kevin Kakpayen, the head of parliament's commission on institutions and democracy, told reporters.
"In no other constitution among countries in the sub-region are there dispositions limiting the number of presidential terms," he said.
It was not immediately clear which countries he included in the sub-region. There are no term limits in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon - though there are in the constitution in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
(Reporting by Judicael Yongo; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Andrew Heavens)