Egypt parliament overwhelmingly approves extension of president's term limits

The Egyptian parliament on Thursday approved in principle proposed constitutional amendments that would allow President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to stay in power until 2034. (File/ AFP)
Updated 14 February 2019
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Egypt parliament overwhelmingly approves extension of president's term limits

  • Once passed, amendments must be finalized by a special legislative committee for a final decision within two months, followed by a nationwide referendum, likely before early May
  • The amendments, if passed, will allow El-Sisi 12 more years after his second term expires in 2022

CAIRO: Egyptian lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to extend term limits for President Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi until 2034, part of a package of constitutional amendments also set to further enshrine the military's role in politics that will now face a national referendum.
Of the 596-seat Parliament, 485 lawmakers backed the amendments, which could see the former general ruling for the length of four US presidential terms, in addition to the nearly five years he's already spent in office.
Critics of the move argue that Egypt is slipping back into authoritarianism, eight years after a pro-democracy uprising ended autocrat Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule, and nearly six years after El-Sissi led a popular military overthrow of the country's first freely elected but divisive Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, after protests against his rule.
With Parliament and state institutions packed with fervent El-Sissi supporters, the amendments focusing on him are almost certain to survive any scrutiny, allowing the general-turned president 12 more years of potential rule after his second term expires in 2022.
Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Al said the motion would now be discussed by the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee for 60 days before returning to Parliament for a final vote followed by the referendum, likely to take place before early May, the start of Ramadan.
Thursday's vote followed three rounds of discussions among representative lawmakers that started the previous day. Very few opposed openly the amendments focusing on El-Sissi or the military. Abdel-Al's statement mentioned neither specifically.
Since taking office, El-Sissi has led an unprecedented crackdown on dissent, opposition and civil liberties, justifying his unique leadership as necessary to bring stability and economic growth.
El-Sissi was elected president in 2014, and re-elected last year after all potentially serious challengers were either jailed or pressured to exit the race.
The amendments also include clauses allowing the president to appoint top judges and bypass judiciary oversight in vetting draft legislation before it is voted into law. They declare the country's military "guardian and protector" of the Egyptian state, democracy and the constitution, while also granting military courts wider jurisdiction in trying civilians.


Iran must stop supporting militias for peace offer to be taken seriously: Expert 

Updated 26 May 2019
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Iran must stop supporting militias for peace offer to be taken seriously: Expert 

  • Iran has for long pursued a policy of outsourcing its meddling to external militias
  • Among these are the Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen

JEDDAH: Iran needs to dismantle its proxies and end its interventions in Arab affairs before seeking to normalize relations with its Gulf neighbors, a political expert told Arab News on Sunday.

“The Gulf countries have been calling for normal relations with their neighbors for years, but their calls have fallen on deaf ears on the Iranian side,” Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and international relations scholar, said.

Accusing Tehran of “playing games,” Al-Shehri described Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s suggestion that Iran wanted to improve relations with its Gulf neighbors as worthless “as long as it continues meddling in the affairs of other countries, and fails to halt its evil militias from sabotaging and destabilizing regional security.”

Iran has for long pursued a policy of outsourcing its meddling to external militias, which indirectly supports, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. 

Zarif, who is on a two-day visit to Iraq, told a joint news conference in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Al-Hakim that Iran wants to build balanced relations with its Gulf Arab neighbors and had proposed signing a non-aggression pact with them.

However, Al-Shehri said that Tehran needs to address three key issues — its nuclear program; its terrorist militias, which have been spreading chaos in the Gulf region and beyond; and its ballistic missile program — before making any such proposals.

“The question is, would Iran be ready to give up all three files? If they want their neighbors to accept them and normalize relations with them, they have to be honest and stop playing games,” he said.

Al-Shehri described Zarif’s regional tour as an attempt to rally support and send a false message that Iran has friends and allies who would stand by them in their crisis with the US.

“Where were these countries when Iran’s terrorist proxies in Yemen, the Houthi militias, launched missiles and drones attacking the holiest Islamic site in Makkah and other Saudi facilities?” Al-Shehri asked.

Zarif said Iran will defend itself against any military or economic aggression, calling on European states to do more to preserve a nuclear agreement his country signed.

“We will defend (ourselves) against any war efforts, whether it be an economic war or a military one, and we will face these efforts with strength,” he said.

Strains have increased between Iran and the US following this month’s sabotage attack on oil tankers in the Gulf. Washington and other regional allies have concluded that Iran is most likely behind the attacks. 

Tehran has distanced itself from the bombings, but the US has sent an aircraft carrier and extra 1,500 troops to the Gulf, sparking concerns over the risk of conflict in the volatile region.