Nicaragua's National Assembly began debate Tuesday ahead of a second and definitive vote on constitutional changes that would abolish presidential term limits and allow incumbent head of state Daniel Ortega to rule by decree.

Assembly speaker Rene Nuñez, a member of the governing Sandinista party, opened the ordinary session after the reading of assorted issues by different lawmakers and declared debate on the reform to be under way, a measure that had already been approved last month on the first reading.

The debate began with the rejection of the measure by the opposition and other sectors such as the Catholic Church, who denounced the authoritarian aspect of the proposal.

Besides scrapping term limits, the reform would permit election of a president by a plurality, rather than the absolute majority required under current law.

The package also authorizes the president to issue executive decrees that have the force of law.

The head of the Sandinista parliamentary grouping, Edwin Castillo, said that it was possible that the packet of reforms could be approved on Tuesday.

The Bapli opposition coalition reiterated that it will vote against "the poorly-named constitutional reforms" because "they are so that Daniel Ortega may capture everything," in the words of lawmaker Wilber Lopez.

The bill "is oriented to favor the establishment and perpetuation of absolute power over the long term, exercised by one person or a party in a dynastic manner or by means of a political and economic oligarchy," the secretary-general of the Catholic bishops conference, Monsignor Silvia Baez, said Tuesday on Twitter.

Ortega, 68, was reelected in 2011 for his third term overall and second consecutive one with 62.45 percent of the votes in an election plagued by accusations of irregularities.

The president has spent almost half his life as the undisputed leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, or FSLN. EFE