Egyptian MPs back constitution changes to extend Sisi rule

Sisi has presided over an unprecedented crackdown on dissent since the 2013 coup d'etat

Sisi has presided over an unprecedented crackdown on dissent since the 2013 coup d'etat

Egypt's Parliament has approved constitutional changes that will allow President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to tighten his grip on government and stay in power until 2030, as authorities block a growing online petition against the changes.

MPs approved other sweeping changes to the Constitution including allowing the military a greater influence in Egyptian political life as well as granting Mr Sisi greater control over the judiciary.

The changes would extend Sisi's current term to six years from four and then allow him to run again for a third term, which would last six years.

He was first elected to office in 2014, the year after he, as defence minister, led the military intervention to remove the divisive president, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Since his highly contested election in 2014, Sisi has overseen what independent groups have described as the worst crackdown on human rights in Egypt's modern history, with the detention of at least 60,000 political prisoners and a virtual ban on protests.

But Mohamed Abu-Hamed, one of the members of parliament who pushed for constitutional amendments to keep Sisi in power, is adamant that the changes are a must.

"The constitution in 2014 was written under tough exceptional circumstances", he told AFP.

He hailed Sisi as a president who "took important political, economic and security measures".

The vote comes after veteran presidents were ousted both in Algeria and Sudan and amid an escalation of the conflict in Libya.

"These amendments are not needed for the good of Egypt; rather they constitute a personalization of power for Abdel Fattah al-Sisi", she said.

Some lawmakers in favour of the amendments raised Egyptian flags and played nationalist songs before the vote began on Tuesday.

"Take part, say. "yes" for the constitutional amendments", says one banner near the pro-government Nation's Future Party.

Such banners have enveloped Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square, the site of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

The accepted constitutional amendments were initially introduced in February by a parliamentary bloc supportive of Sissi and updated this week after several rounds of debates.

"It is an unrealistic period.to achieve complete and sustainable development.", a draft of the report seen by Reuters said regarding article 140, which would extend the presidential term to six years.

Under Mr Sisi, Egypt has drawn wide worldwide criticism for its sweeping crackdown on dissent including Mr Morsi's Islamist supporters as well as secular and liberal activists.

Amnesty International said that by approving the amendments, the parliamentarians had shown a "complete disregard for human rights".

Justifying this clause, Speaker Abdel-Al said it was aimed at "political justice. and the required stability".

Ahead of the vote, Human Rights Watch said the amendments would "institutionalise authoritarianism".

But the most enthusiastic endorsements come from US President Donald Trump.

The approval triggered a swift national referendum to confirm the amendments, which also include the creation of a vice-presidential role and a 25% quota for female MPs, beginning on 22 April.

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