Nicaragua's Congress on Tuesday opened debate on a controversial constitutional reform that would authorize President Daniel Ortega to run for a fourth term in 2016, an official said.
Ortega's ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front has more than the 56 votes needed to pass the changes, which would eliminate term limits on the presidency and allow the appointment of active duty police and military officials to government offices currently reserved for civilians.
The debate in the Congress began with little resistance from the opposition, which has been splintered by infighting and weak leadership.
In the streets outside, however, dozens of people protested the reforms which they said are aimed at perpetuating Ortega's rule.
Ortega, a leader of the leftist guerrilla movement that overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, was president from 1979 to 1990 and reelected in 2007.
The protest was organized by an emerging alliance of civic groups and opposition parties.