FILE - People ride on a bus as posters with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi are displayed in Cairo, Egypt, March 25, 2018.
FILE - People ride on a bus as posters with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi are displayed in Cairo, Egypt, March 25, 2018.

CAIRO - Egypt’s parliament advanced a proposal on Tuesday to amend the constitution in a way that could allow President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to stay in office well beyond the end of his current term in 2022.

El-Sissi led the 2013 military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president and was elected the following year. He has presided over an unprecedented crackdown on dissent, and was re-elected last year after all potentially serious challengers were jailed or pressured to exit the race.

A constitutional amendment to extend el-Sissi’s rule would add to concerns that the country is slipping back into authoritarianism eight years after a pro-democracy uprising ended Hosni Mubarak’s nearly three-decade rule.

Members of Egypt's Parliament attend the inaugural session, the first to convene in three years, in Cairo, Jan. 10, 2016.
Egypt Lawmakers to Submit Motion to Amend Constitution
A coalition of Egyptian parliamentarians will submit a request for constitutional amendments providing for a second chamber of parliament and the appointment of one or more deputy presidents, state news agency MENA reported on Saturday. The move follows a separate attempt by a group of ordinary Egyptians to change presidential term limits in the constitution, which was adopted in 2014 after the military overthrew Islamist President Mohamed Morsi following protests against his rule. Speculation has…

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al said two thirds of the 596-seat legislature endorsed the proposed amendments. It’s unclear when the assembly — which is packed with el-Sissi supporters — will take a final vote, and a national referendum would need to be held to amend the constitution.

A draft of the proposed amendments, obtained by The Associated Press, shows concerted efforts by the pro-government “Supporting Egypt” coalition to consolidate el-Sissi’s power. The 64-year-old leader could be allowed to run for a third and fourth six-year term, potentially extending his rule to 2034.

The motion was submitted Sunday after approval by a required fifth of the chamber’s 596 lawmakers, the vast majority of whom are el-Sissi supporters.

“In order to maintain stability and to complete the development plans, there is a proposal to extend the presidential term to six years,” said Abdel-Hadi el-Qassabi, head of the majority coalition in the parliament, which is sponsoring the move.

Egyptian lawyer Negad al-Borai, center left, leaves the high court after a hearing, in Cairo, Egypt. Al-Borai said Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019 that Egypt has rounded up at least six activists in the last couple of days in a wave of arrests coinciding wi
Egypt Arrests Activists After Commemoration of Uprising
Egypt has rounded up at least six activists in the last couple of days in a wave of arrests coinciding with the anniversary of the 2011 uprising, a rights lawyer said Wednesday.Authorities have waged a sweeping crackdown on dissent in recent years, reversing freedoms won in the popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Security is especially tight around the anniversary of the Jan.

Abdel-Al said Sunday that the amendments “are rooted in the interest of both the state and the Egyptian people.”

“Conditions on the ground, the situation in the region and the nation’s circumstances have proven that (the current term limits) are unsuitable,” he said.

Pro-government media figures have been arguing for months that two terms are not enough for el-Sissi to fulfil his ambitious vision of modernizing the country, including overhauling its economy and defeating Islamic militants.

FILE - French President Emmanuel Macron and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attend a news conference at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, Oct. 24, 2017.
Macron Presses Egypt on Human Rights During Visit
French President Emmanuel Macron said he encouraged respect for human rights when he met Monday with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who is seen as a key ally in the fight against Islamic extremists but has led an unprecedented crackdown on dissent.   Macron, heading a large delegation on a three-day trip to the Arab world's most populous country, said ahead of the talks that he wanted to "pursue a truthful dialogue on topics of public freedoms and human rights" — something he has raised…

Yasser Rizq, chairman of the state-owned al-Akhbar daily and a close confidant of el-Sissi, has argued in recent columns that constitutional amendments were necessary to prevent Islamist parties from gaining power.

The Muslim Brotherhood group won a series of free and fair elections after the 2011 uprising, culminating in one of its senior figures, Mohamed Morsi, winning the presidency in 2012. Morsi’s rule proved divisive, however, and the military removed him from power amid mass protests a year later. Authorities have since outlawed the Brotherhood as a terrorist group and arrested thousands of its members.

The government has also jailed a number of prominent secular activists. It has banned unauthorized protests, heavily restricted civil society groups and blocked hundreds of websites.

 Policemen stand guard on the anniversary of the 2011 uprising in Tahrir Square in the Haram district of Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 25, 2016. Thirteen policemen were sentenced to prison for taking part in a 2015 strike for better pay and working conditions.
Egypt Arrests 54 Suspected of Planning Violence on Uprising Anniversary
Egyptian security forces have arrested 54 people, including suspected members of the Muslim Brotherhood, for planning to hold protests and commit violence on the anniversary of the 2011 uprising, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.

El-Sissi has repeatedly said he would not stay in office any longer than Egyptians wanted him to and that he was not in favor of amending the constitution’s term limits. But opposition parties and media have come under intense pressure during his rule, and political figures who have challenged him have been jailed, fled into self-imposed exile or withdrawn from public life.

The proposed amendments also include the introduction of the role of vice president, a revived senate and the enshrining of a quota of 25 percent for women in the House of Deputies. Also included is “adequate” representation for workers, farmers, youth and people with special needs in the legislature.

The motion would give the president the power to appoint top judges and bypass judiciary oversight in vetting draft legislation before it is voted into law.

The amendments are nearly certain to be adopted by the legislature, but they would also need to be put to a national referendum.

Many opposition lawmakers and figures have decried the motion, and critics have taken to social media to reject what they see as an attempt to enshrine an authoritarian government.

“Project to amend Egypt’s constitution unfolding & in full throttle,” Nobel Peace Prize winner and former vice president Mohamed ElBaradei, who left Egypt in 2013, tweeted on Monday. “Main features: extending presidential term limit; diminishing judicial and anointing military as the guardian of the state. Arab Spring in reverse!”

 

Special Project

More Coverage