Egypt parliament votes to extend El-Sisi rule

Pedestrians walk in front of a banner of the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi before the upcoming referendum on constitutional amendments in Cairo. (Reuters)
Updated 16 April 2019
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Egypt parliament votes to extend El-Sisi rule

  • The proposed amendments were initially introduced in February by a parliamentary bloc supportive of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi
  • The amendments are expected to be put to a public referendum later this month

CAIRO: Egypt's parliament on Tuesday approved constitutional amendments allowing general-turned-president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to stay in power until 2030, state media reported.
Deputies also backed other sweeping changes to the constitution including to give the military greater influence in political life as well as granting El-Sisi more control over the judiciary.
The amendments are expected to be put to a public referendum later this month.
"The president's current term shall expire at the end of six years from the date of his election as president in 2018," reported the official Al-Ahram news website and broadcaster Nile TV.
"He can be re-elected for another (six-year) term."
El-Sisi led the army's overthrow of elected president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 following mass protests against the Islamist leader's rule.
He won his first term as president in 2014 and was re-elected in March 2018 with more than 97 percent of the vote, after standing virtually unopposed.
Mohamed Abu Hamed, a member of parliament who pushed for the constitutional amendments to keep El-Sisi in power, was adamant the changes were needed to allow him to complete political and economic reforms.
"The constitution in 2014 was written under tough exceptional circumstances," he told AFP.
The deputy hailed El-Sisi as a president who "took important political, economic and security measures... (and) must continue with his reforms," in the face of the unrest gripping neighbouring countries.
The vote comes after two veteran presidents were ousted in Algeria and Sudan and amid an escalation of the conflict in Libya.
Keeping El-Sisi in power, he added, reflected "the will of the people".
State-run Al-Ahram news website said several MPs carried Egyptian flags as they gathered for the vote inside the parliament while nationalistic songs played in the background.
The amendments were initially introduced in February by a parliamentary bloc supportive of El-Sisi and updated this week after several rounds of debates.
Prior to the amendments, Egypt's 2014 constitution stipulated only two four-year presidential terms.
The 596-seat parliament, which is dominated by El-Sisi loyalists, was elected in 2015, about a year after El-Sisi took office.
Since El-Sisi overthrew Morsi, Egypt has drawn heavy criticism for its sweeping crackdown on dissent. El-Sisi's supporters say tough measures have been necessary as the country battles an extremist insurgency and has suffered bloody militant attacks against both the security forces and civilians, including churches.
As lawmakers debated the proposed changes, prominent dissident actors Khaled Abol Naga and Amr Waked denounced them as a power grab.
If passed, "these amendments would take us back to a dictatorship fit for the Middle Ages," Waked told a news conference by rights groups in Geneva.
Amnesty International has warned the constitutional amendments "would worsen the devastating human rights crisis Egyptians are already facing".
"They would grant President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and security forces free rein to further abuse their powers and suppress peaceful dissent for years to come," said Amnesty's Magdalena Mughrabi.
Other constitutional amendments include a quota for women's representation of no less than 25 percent in parliament and forming a second parliamentary chamber.


Trump spoke with Abu Dhabi crown prince on Thursday: White House

Updated 19 April 2019
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Trump spoke with Abu Dhabi crown prince on Thursday: White House

  • The two leaders discussed Washington’s continued support for the UAE

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump spoke by phone on Thursday with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, the White House said in a statement.
The two leaders discussed Washington’s “continued support for the United Arab Emirates’ national defense, strengthening alliances in the region, and the impact of the Administration’s crippling sanctions on Iran,” the statement said.
“They also spoke about UAE’s contributions to the global energy markets as a reliable supplier of oil,” it said.