Egyptian opposition parties have formed a coalition against proposed changes to the constitution that would allow President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to stay in office beyond the end of his current term in 2022.
The 596-seat assembly, which is packed with Sisi supporters, will take a final vote on February 17, but the amendments would also need to be put to a national referendum.
Abdel-Aziz el-Husseini, a senior leader in the Karama (Dignity) Party, said on Wednesday that 11 parties met the previous day and declared their opposition to the proposed changes.
The group established a “union for the defence of the Constitution”, which includes secular and left-leaning parties and MPs, he added.
Khaled Dawood, another opposition leader and former head of the liberal Dostour (Constitution) Party, questioned the legitimacy of the process to amend the 2014 charter, citing a constitutional clause that bars extending the two-term limit.
“We will challenge the proposed amendment before the country’s supreme constitutional court,” he said.
Amending the Constitution was widely expected. Pro-government parliamentarians and media figures have argued for years the Constitution is crippling the president’s efforts to advance the country, including overhauling its economy and defeating armed groups. Sisi said in 2015 “the Constitution was drafted with good intentions”.
A draft of the proposed amendments shows concerted efforts by the pro-government Supporting Egypt coalition to consolidate Sisi’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.
Talaat Khalil, an MP attending Monday’s meeting, decried the proposed changes, especially a broad clause stating the military’s duty is to protect “the constitution and democracy and the fundamental make-up of the country and its civil nature”.
He told a press conference this could allow the armed forces to support one politician at the cost of another.
“And this is a great danger,” he said.