Egypt mulls changing constitution to keep El-Sisi in power

A political scientist says Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi ‘does not want to step down from power while he is alive ... he fears that he could be held to account if he leaves his post.’ (AFP)
Updated 01 January 2019
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Egypt mulls changing constitution to keep El-Sisi in power

  • Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s government has been widely criticized by rights groups over the repression of dissidents
  • El-Sisi has overseen a military campaign against Daesh group-linked extremists in the Sinai Peninsula

CAIRO: Supporters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi are calling for constitutional changes that would allow him to stay in power once his second term ends in 2022.
Backers of the former military chief, re-elected in March with over 97 percent of the vote, want parliament to discuss repealing an article limiting presidents to two consecutive four-year terms.
In an editorial published on Sunday, the pro-government state-run daily newspaper Al-Akhbar voiced hope that 2019 would see “the start of a belated political reform” to secure El-Sisi’s future in power.
The column by the newspaper’s director Yasser Rizk said this would “preserve all the people’s gains in terms of security, stability and economic recovery” since El-Sisi came to power five years ago,
He said the change could be approved by late summer 2019.
El-Sisi, who led the army’s overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 following mass protests against his rule, won his first term as president the following year.
His government has been widely criticized by rights groups over the repression of dissidents.
As well as a crackdown on dissent, El-Sisi has overseen a military campaign against Daesh group-linked extremists in the Sinai Peninsula.
Egypt is slowly recovering from a deep economic crisis that has seen the value of its currency plummet and state subsidies slashed.
In November 2017, even before he was re-elected, El-Sisi told American news network CNBC he would not seek a third term in office.
But after his victory in the March 2018 polls, the question has gradually returned to public debate.
Mohammad Fuad, and MP with the Wafd party close to the government, told AFP that “the whole of Egypt was talking about (Rizk’s) article last night.”
“This issue has been under discussion everywhere in Egypt, not just in parliament, for some time,” he said, adding that a potential parliamentary debate on the issue had not been initiated by the government.
In the current context of Egyptian politics, there was little surprise that the debate was taking place, Fuad said.
“People have been expecting a constitutional amendment on extending presidential terms, because every time the debate turns to the end of (El-Sisi’s) second term, the question is: who is the alternative? That causes panic,” he said.
Mustafa Kamal Al-Sayed, a political science professor at Cairo University, said Rizk “did not express a personal point of view, but revealed trends within government institutions.”
He said El-Sisi “does not want to step down from power while he is alive ... he fears that he could be held to account if he leaves his post.”
H.A. Hellyer, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and the Royal United Services Institute in London, said that “every indication from the last few years indicates that amending the constitution is of foremost importance.”
“Otherwise we would not have seen all these trial balloons in the media, and we would have seen indications of successors that are being groomed,” he said.
On social media, opposition figures deplored talk of allowing El-Sisi to stand for a third term.
“There are constitutions and laws in authoritarian regimes and constitutions and laws in democratic regimes,” wrote Mohamed ElBaradei, a respected former UN nuclear watchdog chief and Egyptian politician on Twitter.
“The former are a tool for entrenching authoritarian rule based on repression and fear, while the second are a tool for establishing good governance based on freedom and justice.”


Security tops agenda as Iraqi PM visits Egypt in first foreign trip

Updated 23 March 2019
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Security tops agenda as Iraqi PM visits Egypt in first foreign trip

  • After meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Abdul Mahdi highlighted “the importance of drying up the sources of terrorism”
  • The visit to Egypt is Abdul Mahdi’s first trip abroad since taking office in October

CAIRO: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi sought Egypt’s support for efforts to tackle extremist militants in the region during a visit to Cairo on Saturday, his first trip abroad since taking office in October.
After meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Abdul Mahdi highlighted “the importance of drying up the sources of terrorism” and said “cooperation between Egypt and Iraq will be essential for this matter,” according to an official statement.
His comments came as US-backed forces said they had captured Daesh’s last shred of territory in eastern Syria at Baghouz, ending its territorial rule over a self-proclaimed caliphate straddling Syria and Iraq after years of fighting.
Though the defeat ends the group’s grip over the extremist quasi-state that it declared in 2014, it remains a threat.
Some Daesh fighters still hold out in Syria’s remote central desert and in Iraqi cities they have slipped into the shadows, staging sudden shootings or kidnappings and awaiting a chance to rise again.
The United States thinks the group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is in Iraq.
Defeating militants in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and restoring security after years of unrest has been a key promise of El-Sisi, the general-turned-president who came to power a year after the military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Mursi in 2013.
Egypt has fought an insurgency waged by a Daesh affiliate in North Sinai since 2013. Hundreds of members of the security forces have been killed.