Egypt could face another popular uprising in the coming weeks after social media activists started a new campaign against amendments in the Egyptian constitution which would enable President Abdel Fateh el-Sisi to add another 12 years to his current term that ends in 2022.
The changes in the constitution would also make el-Sisi head of the judiciary and introduce a “military guardianship” which would oversee the local political system.
Article 226 of the current constitution prohibits the amendment of the term of a president and also contains provisions which would guarantee ‘freedoms’.
On February 14, roughly 80 percent of Egyptian lawmakers nevertheless voted in favor of the constitutional amendments, paving the way for what some dub an additional coup by el-Sisi.
The approval by the Egyptian parliament will be followed by a referendum which is scheduled to take place after a 30-day ‘public debate’
The attempt to grab an additional term and more power flies in the face of a pledge made by the Egyptian leader in November 2017.
"I will not stay one more day as president if it is against the will of the Egyptian people," el-Sisi promised while pledging to honour the constitution.
Activists are now calling upon fellow Egyptians to wear black clothes on the day of the referendum, to prevent vote rigging, and to make it clear that the majority of the Egyptian population is against an extension of el-Sisi’s rule.
Using the hashtag #NoToConstitutionalAmendments one activist called upon the Egyptian public to close ranks and to unite while he predicted that el-Sisi’s opponents would win.
Among the activists are members of Egypt’s elite along with members of the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood (MB).
Mohamed Mahsoob, a MB member and former minister of parliamentary affairs, reminded Egyptians of the day the people effectively toppled the Mubarak regime in February 2011.
“On February 11, the people toppled a dictator — an incredible feat that no one would have believed possible," Mahsoob tweeted on the day commemorating the resignation of former President Hosni Mubarak.
The last time an Egyptian president tried to amend the constitution with the goal of extending existing powers was in November 2012 when MB-leader Mohammed Morsi issued a degree giving himself exclusive powers.
The degree ultimately led to the downfall of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood and the coup that brought el-Sisi to power.
Since becoming President, el-Sisi has led an ongoing crackdown on political opponents, journalists and members of the LGBTQ community in Egypt, but segments of the public in the country still think it’s possible to overcome the oppression and deny his regime legitimacy.
The online petition against the constitutional coup drew 23,000 signatures within days, including those of the leaders of 10 left-leaning political parties.
Some of the activists were also behind the social media campaign that led to the mass protests against Mubarak’s regime in the winter of 2011.
They are mostly liberals and they could unwillingly help Islamist gangs who are trying to destabilize Egypt to the point that el-Sisi’s regime collapses.
February has already seen an uptick in terrorist activity mainly in the Sinai Peninsula, but also in population centers.
Last Saturday, 15 Egyptian military personnel were killed or wounded in a shoot-out with terrorists of the ISIS branch Wilayat Sinai.
The ISIS affiliate lost 7 members in the battle in north Sinai and later claimed responsibility for the attack via its AMAQ website.
On Monday, a suicide bomber killed 3 police officers and wounded five bystanders when he detonated his explosive device near the Khan el-Khalili bazaar in central Cairo.
The same terrorist had earlier attempted to blow up a mosque in Cairo’s Giza district where police found and defused additional bombs after they started a crackdown on MB members and other Islamists .
On Tuesday, Egyptian security forces killed 16 Wilayat Sinai terrorists near the town of el-Arish in northern Sinai, close to the border with Gaza.
The failure to contain the Islamist insurgency in Egypt could threaten Israel in the long term, says the Directorate of Military Intelligence in Israel.
The IDF body estimates that there are between 150,000 and 200,000 ISIS members in the world, most of them operating in the Middle East.
The Directorate fears that Wilayat Sinai will turn its guns at Israel in the not so distant future and is working to raise awareness among politicians and the Israeli public.
The el-Sisi regime, meanwhile, continues its crackdown on the Islamists in Egypt.
On Wednesday morning nine MB members were executed after they were convicted for their role in the assassination of Egypt’s top prosecutor Hisham Barakat. killed by a bomb in Cairo on June 29, 2015.
A total of 15 people have been executed in Egypt for Islamist terrorist activities since the beginning of 2019.