Egyptian legislators propose presidential term extension

Plan to change constitution would see President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's mandate extended past 2022.

    Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has said he won't seek a third term in office [File: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Reuters]
    Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has said he won't seek a third term in office [File: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Reuters]

    Egypt will consider extending the presidential term to six years from four, a senior legislator has said, which could allow President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to stay in power beyond 2022 when his second term ends.

    The speaker of Egypt's parliament, Ali Abdelaal, said on Sunday he received a motion from MPs proposing constitutional amendments that will be considered by parliament after it is discussed in committee. He gave no details on the recommended changes.

    But Abdel-Hadi al-Qassabi, head of the Support Egypt parliamentary bloc that is sponsoring the amendments, said they included extending the presidential term.

    "Looking to maintain stability and to complete the development plans, there is a proposal to extend the presidential term to six years," Qassabi told journalists in parliament before the motion was conveyed to Abdelaal.

    There has been growing speculation that authorities would seek to change the current constitution, approved in a 2014 referendum, to allow Sisi to remain in office beyond two terms.

    It was not immediately clear if the proposed amendments would scrap the two-term limit stipulated in the current constitution, or if that limit would be retained to apply to the longer new six-year presidency.

    While opponents tweeted against the proposed amendments, supporters of the Egyptian government reiterated their support for the move to amend the charter on the ground of ensuring stability.

    The Egyptian constitution states "in all cases, texts pertaining to the re-election of the president of the republic or the principles of freedom and equality stipulated in this constitution may not be amended, unless the amendment brings more guarantees".

    Constitutional changes could take months because they require approval by two-thirds of parliament's 596 members followed by a referendum.

    The current constitution allows the president and a fifth of parliament members to propose an amendment to any of the constitution's articles, said Qassabi.

    Extended term

    In December, Egyptian state news agency MENA said a court had scheduled hearings on a petition by a number of ordinary people demanding the speaker of parliament take steps to introduce constitutional changes that would allow Sisi to seek re-election after his second term in office expires.

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    The petitioners argue article 140 of the constitution that sets term limits is "unfair to the great Egyptian people", and eight years gives a president too little time to deal with the economic and security challenges facing the country.

    Sisi was elected in 2014, one year after leading a coup against his predecessor Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood group. In June 2018, he was re-elected to a second term in office.

    Under the Egyptian constitution, Sisi is not allowed to run for a third term.

    The Egyptian presidency did not comment on the move, but Sisi said in a previous televised interview that he did not intend to amend the constitution and would refuse a third term.

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    SOURCE: News agencies