The president of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, who is one of the world’s longest-serving leaders, will seek a fourth term in elections due next March, the country’s ruling coalition said on Thursday.
The 77-year-old has led the central African country, also called Congo-Brazzaville for a total of 36 years since he first became president in 1979.
His bid to run for the top job comes after nominations by the 17 parties that make up his presidential majority.
“The presidential majority believes that of all its leaders, it is President Sassou Nguesso who holds all the trump cards,” said Pierre Moussa, acting chairman of the parties in the coalition.
He has yet to announce his candidacy but he could do so during a speech to the Nation on December 19 when he could also set the date of the vote which is scheduled for March 2021.
The country staged a referendum in 2015 to remove a 70 year age limit and a ban on presidents serving more than two terms.
The move paved the way for Sassou Nguesso to secure a third term in elections in March 2016, which sparked bloodshed.
His rivals, former general Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko and former minister Andre Okombi Salissa, disputed the results.
They were arrested, put on trial and each handed 20 years in jail on charges of undermining state security.
Congo is an oil-rich but impoverished country.
It is in the grip of a deep economic crisis, triggered by the slump in oil prices but worsened by long-standing debt and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.