Egypt MPs back extension of Sisis rule

A man walks in front of a banner showing President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and backing the proposed constitutional amendments in Cairo, Egypt (16 April 2019)Image copyright

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Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, seen here in a street poster, was re-elected last year after winning 97% of the vote

Egypt’s parliament has approved constitutional amendments that would allow President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to stay in power until 2030.

Mr Sisi is due to stand down in 2022, when his second four-year term ends.

But the amendments, which must be put to a referendum within 30 days, would lengthen his current term to six years and allow him to stand for one more.

MPs are also expected to enshrine the military’s role in politics and give Mr Sisi more power over the judiciary.

In 2013, Mr Sisi led the military’s overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, following protests against his rule.

Since then, he has overseen what human rights groups say is an unprecedented crackdown on dissent that has led to the detention of tens of thousands of people.

Mr Sisi was first elected president in 2014 and was re-elected last year after winning 97% of the vote. He faced no serious competition because several potential rivals dropped out or were arrested.

Parliament is also dominated by supporters of Mr Sisi and it has been criticised by the opposition as being a rubber stamp for the president.

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Mr Sisi’s supporters say the changes are necessary to give him more time to complete reforms

One MP who campaigned for the constitutional amendments, Mohammed Abu Hamed, told AFP news agency that Mr Sisi was a president who “took important political, economic and security measures” and who had to be allowed to “continue with his reforms” in the wake of the unrest in neighbouring Libya and Sudan.

But Khaled Dawoud, of the liberal al-Dustour party, dismissed the argument as “absurd” and told the BBC that the changes represented a “power-grab” by Mr Sisi.

The internet monitor NetBlocks said Egyptian authorities had partly or fully blocked 34,000 websites in an attempt to restrict access to a campaign website that had reportedly collected 250,000 signatures against the amendments.

How could the president stay in power until 2030?

Article 140 of Egypt’s current constitution, which was approved in a referendum in 2014, currently says that the president serves four-year terms and may only be re-elected once.

Under the changes approved by MPs on Tuesday, presidential terms would become six years.

A transitional arrangement outlined in article 241 would allow Mr Sisi to serve one additional six-year term after his current one ends.

The president would also be permitted to appoint one or more vice-presidents. The post was removed following the adoption of the 2012 constitution.

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