Wednesday, 11 December, 2019
Egypt mulls breaking two-term limit for President Sisi

Egypt mulls breaking two-term limit for President Sisi

Supporters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi are calling for constitutional changes so that the head of state can stay in power once his second term ends in 2022.

Sisi came to power in June 2014 as the president, one year after he led the military to oust the first democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi in a coup. He served as the defense minister in Morsi’s government before orchestrating the coup.

On April 2, 2018, the election commission said Sisi had won a total of 21.8 million votes in the March presidential election. His sole opponent, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, a relatively unknown and a fervent Sisi supporter himself, gained 656,534, less than the 1.8 million spoiled ballots.

The turnout in the much-criticized election was 41 percent, lower than the 47 percent recorded in 2014 elections. That could be a potential setback for Sisi, who sought to portray the vote as a plebiscite on his efforts to overhaul Egypt’s economy over the past years and eliminate terrorism in Egypt.

The vote was also marred by allegations that real contenders for the election withdrew from the race because of an intimidation campaign by the government. Serious opposition contenders halted their campaigns in January while authorities arrested the main challenger whose campaign manager was also beaten up.

In early June, 64-year-old Sisi was sworn in as the country’s president for a second four-year term in office to have a hard time dealing with major economic and security challenges in the North African country.

On Sunday, Egypt’s state-owned and semi-official newspaper Al-Akhbar said in its editorial that it hoped that 2019 would see “the start of a belated political reform” to secure Sisi’s future in power.

The editorial, written by the daily’s director Yasser Rizk, said that this would “preserve all the people’s gains in terms of security, stability and economic recovery over the past five years.”

Earlier in Tuesday, Mohammad Fuad, and lawmaker with the Wafd party, which is close to the government, also said in an interview with 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 added, noting that a potential parliamentary debate on the issue had not been initiated yet by the government.

On December 8, a number of Egyptian lawyers, including Ayman Abdel-Hakim Ramadan, announced that they had filed a case with a Cairo court to force the parliament to debate amending article 140 of the constitution that bars Sisi from running for a third term in 2022.

In late July, a petition demanding parliament to take due steps in allowing Sisi to remain president beyond his second term was circulating within Egyptian institutions and among pro-state figures.

Back in March, Sisi’s supporters called on the parliament to discuss repealing the so-called article 140 of the constitution.

Back in November 2017, and even before Sisi was re-elected for his second term, he told American news network CNBC that he would not seek a third term in office. However, following his victory in March polls, the question has gradually returned to public debate.

The controversial proposal to maintain Sisi for at least a third consecutive term has been strongly criticized by opponents and NGOs who took to social networks to express their dissatisfaction.

During the past few years, Sisi has faced growing criticism about his way of treating dissidents, especially those linked to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, which Sisi outlawed right after taking office.

Some seven years after the January 2011 uprising that led to the ouster of dictator Hosni Mubarak from power, Sisi has still two major challenges to tackle: economic recovery and security, particularly in northern parts of the Sinai Peninsula, where a terror group affiliated with the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group is at large, killing government troops and civilians alike.

On the other hand, human rights groups and activists have constantly accused Sisi of violating public freedoms and suppressing opponents. Most of his opponents and vocal members of civil society have also been arrested in the past few months.

Rights groups say the army’s crackdown on Morsi's supporters has resulted in the deaths of over 1,400 people. About 22,000 others have been arrested, including some 200 people who have been sentenced to death in mass trials.

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