Egypt MPs back constitution changes to extend Sisi rule

Evarado Alatorre
Abril 17, 2019

Egypt's parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved constitutional amendments allowing general-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to stay in power until 2030, state media reported.

The changes will also give Sisi more control over the country's judiciary.

In mid-February, the Egyptian parliament approved amendments to the constitution that envisage extending the presidential term from four to six years, enable the country's president to appoint vice presidents and provide for the creation of the parliament's upper chamber.

"He can be re-elected for another [six-year] term".

Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel Aal said the president had no lust for power and had nothing to do with the proposed amendments.

Sisi led the 2013 military overthrow of elected president and Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi.

Mr Sisi, 64, was re-elected for a second four-year term in 2018, running virtually unchallenged.

Since his highly contested election in 2014, Sisi has overseen what independent groups have described as the worst crackdown on human rights in Egypt's modern history, with the detention of at least 60,000 political prisoners and a virtual ban on protests.

"The constitution in 2014 was written under tough exceptional circumstances", he told AFP.

Waked, who is living in exile in Europe, took aim at Western government's approach to the Sisi rule on the basis of safeguarding Egypt's stability.

The vote comes after veteran presidents were ousted both in Algeria and Sudan and amid an escalation of the conflict in Libya.

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But he insisted that Egyptians will "liberate themselves" and that those who supported Sisi will pay a price "higher than their investments in keeping him in power".

Some lawmakers in favour of the amendments raised Egyptian flags and played nationalist songs before the vote began on Tuesday.

"Take part, say. "yes" for the constitutional amendments", says one banner.

The proposed amendments were initially introduced in February by a parliamentary bloc supportive of Sisi and updated this week after several rounds of parliamentary debates. "In this great day, we offer to the Egyptian people a draft bill of the constitutional amendments".

Under Mr Sisi, Egypt has drawn wide global criticism for its sweeping crackdown on dissent including Mr Morsi's Islamist supporters as well as secular and liberal activists.

The authorities have jailed thousands of Morsi's supporters as well as liberal and secular activists, including a popular blogger, actors, singers and journalists.

Public opposition was scarce after the Civil Democratic Movement set up to speak out against the amendments said it had been prevented from campaigning and was denied a permit to demonstrate in front of parliament.

Mr Abdel Aal says that the constitution should not be treated as scripture and that Egyptians have the right to amend it to keep pace with political and societal changes.

In the last three years, more than 15,000 civilians, including children, have been referred to military prosecution in Egypt, according to Human Rights Watch.

But the most enthusiastic endorsements come from US President Donald Trump.

Critics have decried the proposals as another step back to authoritarianism, eight years after a pro-democracy uprising ended put an end to Hosni Mubarak's decades-long rule.

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