Yorbing Staff, Thursday February 14, 2019
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NPR Middle East By Merrit Kennedy
Egypt’s parliament has overwhelmingly approved proposed constitutional changes that would allow Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to potentially stay in office until 2034.
The changes, which must be approved by a referendum to enter into force, would also further enshrine the authority of the Armed Forces in “maintaining the foundations of the civil state.”
Egypt’s parliament, which has 596 members, saw 485 votes in favor of the changes. The body is largely made up of supporters of the president. According to The Associated Press, the amendments will be submitted to a committee to finalize the language, then parliament will vote again.
Egyptian human rights groups are expressing alarm. Eleven groups signed a statement saying that the amendments “effectively serve to destroy the constitutional separation of powers, concentrating all authority into the president’s hands and solidifying his authoritarian rule.”
In 2013, then-Defense Minister El-Sissi led a coup against Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, following mass popular protests against him. Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, was in office for one polarizing year.
Since then, el-Sissi has launched an unprecedented crackdown on dissent, and rights groups say he has jailed tens of thousands of his political opponents (though he denies that Egypt has any political prisoners). He was elected to a second term in 2018, in a race where “six potential candidates were either jailed or dropped out,” as NPR’s Jane Arraf reported.