OUAGADOUGOU - Burkina Faso's ruling party called on Saturday for President Blaise Compaore to organise a referendum that would allow him to alter the constitution in order to seek re-election next year, setting up a showdown with opposition parties.
Compaore - in power since leading a coup in 1987 - has positioned himself as a power broker in West Africa and a key ally for France and the United States in the fight against al Qaeda-linked Islamists in the Sahara-Sahel band.
Article 37 of the Burkinabe constitution, which was drafted in 2000, limits presidents to two terms. Compaore secured his second five-year mandate in a 2010 election.
"The (Congress for Democracy and Progress) calls upon President Blaise Compaore to organise the referendum to settle this and invites the political class to respect the verdict of the ballot box," said party official Paramanga Ernest Yonli.
Yonli, a former prime minister and member of the CDP's economic and social council, was speaking to a crowd of about 40,000 Compaore supporters in a stadium where opposition parties organised a similar rally last month.
At that rally, opposition leaders said they would use all means under the law to block a referendum and announced plans for a series of nationwide rallies in opposition to lifting the presidential term limit.
"The Burkinabe people want peace and wish President Blaise Compaore to continue his programme," Assimi Kouanda, who heads the president's party, told the crowd on Saturday.
"This people, mobilised across Burkina Faso, gives the assurance that when the referendum is organised, the victory of the 'yes' vote is certain," he added.
Compaore has not yet publicly stated his intentions concerning next year's election.
Landlocked Burkina Faso is home to a growing gold mining sector but regularly grapples with poor harvests and food shortages. It remains one of the world's poorest nations.
Compaore secured 81 percent of the vote in the 2010 election. But a brief army mutiny in 2011 rattled his otherwise firm grip on the military. In January, dozens of members of his party, including former close aides and key allies, quit to create a movement to challenge him.