Egypt’s parliament has voted in favor of a number of constitutional amendments that would extend the rule of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and would allow him to stay in power until 2030.
The 596-seat legislature, which is dominated by Sisi loyalists, also backed other sweeping changes to the constitution on Tuesday, including giving the military greater influence in political life as well as granting Sisi more control over the judiciary.
“The president’s current term shall expire at the end of six years from the date of his election as president in 2018,” Arabic-language al-Ahram daily newspaper and public broadcaster Nile TV reported.
“He can be re-elected for another (six-year) term,” they added.
Parliament speaker Ali Abdel Aal said 531 deputies voted for the amendments and 22 others against.
He added that amendments to the constitution were the outcome of dialogue sessions that had been in place over the past two months.
Abdel Aal, however, highlighted that a new constitution should be drafted within the next decade – signaling that Sisi may have another chance to extend his term beyond 2030.
“We need a new constitution; there is no way we will carry on without a brand new constitution within the next 10 years,” the legislator said.
Mohamed Abu Hamed, a member of parliament who pushed for extension of Sisi’s rule, asserted that changes were needed to allow the general-turned-president to complete political and economic reforms.
“The constitution in 2014 was written under tough exceptional circumstances,” he commented.
He hailed Sisi as a president who “took important political, economic and security measures… (and) must continue with his reforms.”
Earlier, opposition figures had called the proposals an “Arab Spring in reverse” and an “attempt to derail the movement towards a modern civil democratic state”.
Egyptian authorities blocked more than 34,000 internet websites in an attempt to restrict the Void campaign, which had been launched to rally Egyptians against the amendments.
The campaign had collected more than 250,000 signatures and had established five new websites in an attempt to counter the ban.
Moreover, prominent dissident actors Khaled Abol Naga and Amr Waked had denounced the changes to the constitution as a power grab.
“These amendments would take us back to a dictatorship fit for the Middle Ages,” Waked told a news conference in the Swiss city of Geneva.
His fellow actor criticized Sisi’s narrative that his rule brought stability.
“Where is there stability in a country that jails children… that treats people badly or that kills?” he questioned.
Amnesty International said that by approving the amendments, the parliamentarians had shown a “complete disregard for human rights.”
“These amendments aim to expand military trials for civilians, undermine the independence of the judiciary, and strengthen impunity for human rights violations by members of the security forces,” Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Magdalena Mughrabi, said.
Human Rights Watch had also criticized the amendments, arguing they would “institutionalize authoritarianism.”
Sisi came to power in June 2014, one year after he led the military to oust the first democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi in a coup.
He was re-elected in March 2018 with more than 97 percent of the vote, after standing virtually unopposed.
Human rights groups have regularly criticized Sisi’s government for cracking down on opposition activists and supporters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, which has been banned in the country.
Earlier this year, Amnesty International warned that Egyptians were facing an unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression under Sisi’s administration, saying the North African state had turned into an “open-air prison” for dissidents.
Culled from Presstv