Egypt parliament to vote this week to extend El-Sisi’s rule

Egyptian President and new African Union chairperson Abdel Fattah al-Sisi walks during the 32nd African Union (AU) during the 32nd African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa on February 10, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 11 February 2019
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Egypt parliament to vote this week to extend El-Sisi’s rule

  • The vote was initially scheduled for next week, but is now being held as early as Wednesday
  • The development comes despite concerns that Egypt is slipping back into authoritarianism

CAIRO: Egypt’s parliament has put a rush on voting on proposed constitutional amendments that would allow President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to stay in office well beyond his current term, which ends in 2022.
The vote was initially scheduled for next week, but is now being held as early as Wednesday, lawmaker Nadia Henry said Monday.
The development comes despite concerns that Egypt is slipping back into authoritarianism, eight years after a pro-democracy uprising ended autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s nearly three-decade rule.
El-Sisi led the 2013 military overthrow of elected but divisive Islamist President Muhammad Mursi, and was elected the following year. Since then, he has presided over an unprecedented crackdown on dissent, and was re-elected last year after all potentially serious challengers were jailed or pressured to exit the race.
Once approved by lawmakers, the constitutional amendments would have to be put to a national referendum, Parliament spokesman Ahmed Saad el-Din said Sunday.
The 596-seat assembly had given its preliminary approval to the changes last week. The motion is near-certain to be approved by the legislature, packed with El-Sisi’s supporters.
The amendments also include novelties: the office of vice president, a revived Senate, and a 25 percent quota for women in Parliament. It also calls for “adequate” representation for workers, farmers, young people and people with special needs in the legislature.
The president would have the power to appoint top judges and bypass judiciary oversight in vetting draft legislation before it is voted into law.
The amendments are no surprise; pro-government figures and media have been lobbying for months that two terms are not enough for El-Sisi to fulfil his vision of modernizing the country, including overhauling its economy and defeating Islamic militants.
Yasser Rizq, chairman of the state-owned Al-Akhbar daily and a close confidant of El-Sisi, argued that the amendments were necessary to prevent Islamists from gaining power. He said he expects the referendum to take place before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. This year, Ramdan is expected to start in early May.
Former foreign minister Amr Moussa on Saturday called for “a wide national dialogue” on the amendments. Moussa, who also served as Arab League secretary-general, had chaired the panel that drafted Egypt’s current constitution in 2014.
He urged that all voices, advocates and opponents, should be heard “to enrich the political life in the country and guarantee credibility to the amendments.”


Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process in Sudan. (Reuters)
Updated 24 July 2019
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Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

CHICAGO: US Special Envoy for Sudan Donald E. Booth on Tuesday said that leaders of the military government and the opposition in the African nation are moving toward a reconciliation, but added “there is a lot” that still needs to be done.
Booth, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in June, is charged with leading the US efforts to support a political solution to the current crisis that reflects the will of the Sudanese people.
Both sides in Sudan agreed a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new “Sovereign Council,” before constitutional changes can be made. Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.
“That political declaration really addresses the structure of a transitional government and not the entire structure,” Booth said. “(The July 17 agreement) has put off the question of the legislative council. It is a document that is the beginning of a process. We welcome the agreement on that but there are still a lot of negotiations to be conducted on what the Sudanese call their constitutional declaration.”
The envoy said he expects the Sovereign Council “will have to address what the functions of the different parts of the transitional government will be,” such as the roles and powers of “the sovereign council, the prime minister, the cabinet and, ultimately, the legislative cabinet. Who will lead that transitional government is still undecided.”
The crisis in Sudan came to a head in December 2018 when President Omar Al-Bashir imposed emergency austerity measures that prompted widespread public protests.
He was overthrown by the Sudanese military in April 2018 as a result of the unrest but the protests continued. Demonstrations in Khartoum turned violent on June 3 when 150 civilians were killed, sparking nationwide protests in which nearly a million people took part.
Booth said these protests had changed the dynamics in Sudan, forcing the military to negotiate with the people.
“The 3rd of June was a signal of the limits of people power,” he said. “But then there was the 30th of June, in which close to a million people took to the streets outside of Sudan and I think that demonstrated the limits of the military power over the people.”
Some have asked whether individuals might face prosecution for past human-rights violations, including Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Gen. Hemeti, who was appointed head of the ruling transitional military council in April after Al-Bashir was removed from power. Booth said this would be a decision for the new transitional government.
“One has to recognize that General Hemeti is a powerful figure currently in Sudan,” he said. “He has considerable forces loyal to him. He has significant economic assets as well. So, he has been a prominent member of this transitional military council. But he has been one of the chief negotiators for the forces of Freedom and Change.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Both sides in Sudan agreed on a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new ‘Sovereign Council,’ before constitutional changes can be made.

• Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.

• We will have to wait and see what type of agreement Sudanese will come up with, says US envoy.

“We will have to wait and see what type of agreement they will come up with…we don’t want to prejudge where the Sudanese will come out on that. It is their country and their decision on how they move forward. Our goal is to support the desire for a truly civilian-led transition.”
Booth noted that although sanctions on Sudan have been lifted, the designation of the nation as a state sponsor of terrorism remains in force. He also said he expects the pressures and restrictions on journalists covering Sudan’s transition to ease as progress continues toward redefining Sudan’s government.
“As you can see, there is still a lot that the Sudanese need to do,” said Booth. “But we fully support the desire of the Sudanese people to have a civilian-led transitional government that will tackle the issues of constitutional revision and organizing elections, free and fair democratic elections, at the end of the transitional period.”
He added that the US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process, including expanded religious freedoms, an end to the recruitment of children for military service, and improving Sudan’s economy.
“I think it is important we give the Sudanese space to negotiate with each other, and to continue to express our support to get to the civilian-led transition government that will be broadly supported by the Sudanese people,” said Booth.