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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

Egypt's parliament approves presidential term extension for Sisi

The changes allow him to run for another six-year term in 2024

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. EPA
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. EPA

Egypt's Parliament voted by a comfortable majority on Tuesday for a constitutional amendment allowing President Abdel Fattah El Sisi to stay in office for another 11 years.

The house also approved a supreme political role for the military, created at least one position for vice president to be appointed by Mr El Sisi, and dictated that at least a quarter of MPs are women.

Voting started six hours after Tuesday's session began and continued until the evening.

Members voted on amendments, then the entire package of changes, with a show of hands.

Later, members' names were called and they were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the amendments.

The next step is for a nationwide referendum on the changes, likely to be held this month or early in May.

Critics of the changes say they are a return to the 29-year rule of Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in 2011.

Supporters say the changes are needed to reform Egypt's political system and allow Mr El Sisi to finish what they say is his ambitious and effective drive to build a modern state and overhaul infrastructure and the economy.

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

The changes, Mr Abdel Aad said recently, reflected the will of the people.

The changes would extend presidential terms from four to six years, but maintain the two-term cap on a serving president.

However, they introduce a new clause that would extending Mr El Sisi's present four-year term to six years and allow him to run for another six-year term in 2024.

He was first elected to office in 2014, the year after he, as defence minister, led the military intervention to remove the divisive president, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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

At the end, his sole rival was an obscure politician widely believed to be one of his supporters.

"These amendments are not in the interest of the country or the Egyptians," opposition member Haytham Al Hariri said before the voting began.

"We are bigger than tailor-making the constitution for the benefit of a specific person."

Other changes adopted on Tuesday include forming a 180-seat upper house in Parliament, with Mr El Sisi appointing a third of its members.

They provide for suitable representation in the chamber for Egyptian expatriates, minorities and people with special needs.

They would also give Mr El Sisi more control over the judiciary, allowing him to appoint top judges and chair a body to run the affairs of the judiciary.

Approval by the house of the changes was a foregone conclusion because it is packed with supporters of the president and, critics say, has been operating like a rubber-stamp chamber.

Observing procedural protocol, Mr El Sisi has remained publicly silent on the process of changing the constitution, which was a progressive document ratified in 2014.

Speaker of the Egyptian House of Representatives Ali Abdel Aal presiding over a parliament session to discuss and vote on proposed constitutional amendments, in Cairo, Egypt, 14 February 2019. EPA
Speaker of the Egyptian House of Representatives Ali Abdel Aal presiding over a parliament session to discuss and vote on proposed constitutional amendments, in Cairo, Egypt, 14 February 2019. EPA

Several local media outlets have supported the proposed amendments. In most cases they do not specifically refer to the extension of the presidential terms and allowing Mr El Sisi to run for a third term in 2024.

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.

Mr El Sisi has made security and the economy the priorities of his rule, focusing on building roads, bridges and new cities along with power stations and large agricultural projects.

Updated: April 17, 2019 04:13 PM

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