Egypt’s parliament has overwhelmingly voted to pass a batch of controversial constitutional amendments, including an extension to presidential terms that could see President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi remain in office until 2034.
The country’s state-owned Al Ahram newspaper announced that the approval, which will later go to a national referendum, would mean presidential terms will be extended from four to six years, and also give more power to the military.
“Some 485 members of the 596-seat assembly approved the changes in a Thursday session, more than the two-thirds quota required to pass any changes to the country’s national charter,” according to Al Ahram Online.
The clause will restart the clock for Sisi – whose second term ends in 2022 – and will allow him to run for two more. Any president after him however will only be allowed to run for two terms, Ahram reported.
Supporters of the changes said they will bring stability to Egypt’s economy, which is struggling to recover from the political turmoil of recent years, along with bolstering security amid and ongoing deadly Islamist insurgency.
However opponents of the proposals described them as a further step towards authoritarianism.
However it’s unlikely to be a free or fair, said Timothy Kaldas, non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.
“Undoubtedly the ongoing campaign of repression of government critics and civil society is meant to deter anyone who would dare try to mobilize a campaign for a ‘no’ vote,” Kaldas told CNN.
Sisi won both previous presidential elections in landslides, garnering more than 90% of the vote each time. During the 2018 election, all of the high-profile candidates dropped out of the race after facing intimidation, obstruction and, in one case, arrest. Sisi has previously said he has no intention of being Egypt’s president for life.