Egypt MPs pass amendments to extend Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's rule

The proposed changes mean Sisi's second term in office could end in 2024, after which he will be allowed to run again.

    Critics have slammed the amendments, which will be put to a public referendum, as 'unconstitutional' [Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters]
    Critics have slammed the amendments, which will be put to a public referendum, as 'unconstitutional' [Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters]

    Egypt's parliament has passed proposed constitutional amendments that could see President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi remain in power until 2030, according to state media.

    The vote on Tuesday sends the changes to a public referendum that will likely take place before early May when the Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts.

    Critics have decried the proposals as another step back to authoritarianism, eight years after a pro-democracy uprising ended put an end to Hosni Mubarak's decades-long rule.

    The amendments approved by the 596-member parliament, which is dominated by pro-Sisi politicians, include allowing the general-turned-president to extend his current term by two years and stand for another six-year mandate.

    "Today, we are concluding what we started in February," Speaker Ali Abdel-Al said at the beginning of the session.

    "In this great day, we offer to the Egyptian people a draft bill of the constitutional amendments."

    Human rights record

    In recent weeks, large posters encouraging people to vote in the referendum and back the changes have been splattered across Egypt's capital, Cairo, including in the central Tahrir Square, where mass protests became the symbol of the 2011 anti-Mubarak uprising and of hopes for democratic change in Egypt.

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    "Take part, say ... 'yes' for the constitutional amendments," says one banner near the pro-government Nation's Future Party. Most of the posters were apparently funded by pro-government parties, businessmen and MPs, according to reports.

    Sisi led the 2013 military overthrow of elected president and Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi. He won his first term as president in 2014 and was re-elected in March 2018 with more than 97 percent of the vote, after standing virtually unopposed.

    His government has been widely criticised by human rights groups for the repression of political opponents.

    In the past three years, more than 15,000 civilians, including children, have been referred to military prosecution in Egypt, according to Human Rights Watch.

    Proposed amendments

    The constitutional changes would only extend a president's term in office from four to six years and allow for a maximum of two terms.

    But they also include a special article specific to Sisi that extends his current second four-year term to six years and allows him to run for another six-year term in 2024 - potentially extending his rule until 2030.

    Justifying this clause, Abdel-Al, the speaker, said it was aimed at "political justice ... and the required stability."

    The February draft of the special article was different, proposing to allow Sisi to run for two more six-year terms after his current term expires in 2022, possibly putting him at the helm of Egypt until 2034.

    No reason was given for the change, apparently made by the committee that drafted the final version of the text.

    The amendments introduce one or more vice presidents, revive the Senate and enshrine a 25 percent quota for women in parliament's lower, legislative chamber.

    They allow the president to appoint top judges and bypass judiciary oversight in vetting draft legislation.

    They declare the military the "guardian and protector" of the Egyptian state, democracy and the constitution, while also granting military courts wider jurisdiction in trying civilians.

    Finally, they include provisions for what is described as adequate representation for workers, farmers, youth and people with special needs.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies