Congo's constitutional court says the president can remain in office beyond his mandate if elections, slated for November, are postponed.

The decision announced Wednesday says President Joseph Kabila can stay in power until a newly elected leader takes office.

Kabila, who has been in power since 2001 and is meant to leave office in December, is barred by the constitution from seeking a third term.

The opposition has voiced concerns that Kabila would delay elections in order to stay in power. Last year the opposition held mass protests against revisions to the electoral law that were ultimately scrapped.

The electoral commission has asked to be able to postpone the elections beyond the November mandate.

Congo has never had a peaceful transfer of power in its 55 years of independence.