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.”


US to leave 200 troops in Syria for a period of time - White House

A small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria. (US Army photo)
Updated 22 February 2019
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US to leave 200 troops in Syria for a period of time - White House

  • The decision was announced after Trump spoke by phone to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan

WASHINGTON: The United States will leave “a small peacekeeping group” of 200 American troops in Syria for a period of time after a US pullout, the White House said on Thursday.
President Donald Trump in December ordered a withdrawal of the 2,000 American troops in Syria on the defeat of the last remnants of the Islamic State militancy there.
But he has been under pressure from some advisers to adjust his policy to ensure the protection of Kurdish forces who supported the fight against Islamic State and who might now be threatened by Turkey.
“A small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a brief statement.
The decision was announced after Trump spoke by phone to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
A White House statement said that the two leaders agreed, regarding Syria, to “continue coordinating on the creation of a potential safe zone.”
They noted that acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford would be hosting their Turkish counterparts in Washington this week for further talks, the White House said.