Egyptian opposition warns against extending Sisi's power

Egyptian opposition parties call to vote against constitutional changes allowing Sisi to stay in power until 2034.

Elad Benari ,

Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi
Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi

A coalition of Egyptian opposition parties on Thursday said that constitutional changes that could allow President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to stay in power until 2034 would pave the way for years of “absolute individual rule”, urging Egyptians to vote against them, Reuters reported.

In February, Egypt's parliament approved the constitutional changes that would allow President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to stay in power after his second term ends in 2022.

The chamber is expected to give its final approval in mid-April, with a national referendum to follow.

The proposed amendments would reset presidential term limits, bolster the role of the military and increase the president’s power over the judiciary. They would extend the two-term presidential limit from eight to 12 years, and would reset the clock for Sisi when his current term finishes in 2022.

Sisi’s supporters say the changes are necessary to give him more time to complete major development projects and economic reforms, but his critics say they concentrate more powers in the hands of a leader accused by rights groups of presiding over a relentless crackdown on freedoms.

While parliament last week began holding a series of consultative sessions over the proposed changes, according to Reuters, the Civil Democratic Movement (CDM), a coalition of secular and leftist opposition groups, said they had largely excluded critical voices.

Opposition parties said a request for a protest against the amendments outside parliament on Thursday had been refused. Parliament speaker Ali Adel-Aal was quoted by the private Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper as saying there was no excuse for the protest and that parliament was “listening to all opinions”.

Members of parliament who have expressed opposition to the amendments say they have been subject to smear campaigns and intimidation.

An interior ministry spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sisi swept to another four years in office against in the country’s elections in March of 2018.

He has in the past indicated, however, that he would not seek a third term in office, noting the country's constitution permits its leaders to serve only two four-year terms.

Parliament spokesman Salah Hasaballah rejected criticism of the hearings, saying all political currents had been invited and that “everyone was granted space to express their views and reservations without interference”.

Since becoming president in 2014, Sisi has been dealing with the Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, where the local Islamic State (ISIS) affiliate has carried out countless terrorist attacks.

Egyptian forces have since February of 2018 been waging a sweeping operation against the local affiliate of the Islamic State group in the restive North Sinai province.