Egyptian lawmakers pave way for Sisi to stay in power until 2034

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian parliamentary committee on Tuesday approved proposed constitutional amendments which would allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to stay in power until 2034 and boost his control of the judiciary.

FILE PHOTO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is pictured during his meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Cairo, Egypt, January 10, 2019. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

The approval is the first step needed to move forward with the constitutional changes, which are expected to be finally endorsed by parliament and then move to a referendum within a few months.

The proposed amendments were submitted on Sunday to the speaker of parliament who heads the committee that approved the changes.

Any changes need approval by two-thirds of parliament members, followed by a referendum.

“This is a constitution made for a pharaoh,” said Mohamed Zaree of the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies. |”It gives [Sisi] a lot of authority with no accountability.”

Sisi supporters say the changes are necessary for the stability of the country and to give the president more time to implement economic development plans.

The amendments include an extension of the presidential term to six years from four in article 140 of the constitution, and a transitional clause that would reset the clock, potentially allowing Sisi to stay in power until 2034, according to a draft seen by Reuters.

The proposed changes also give Sisi new powers over appointing judges and the public prosecutor.

Critics say Sisi has led Egypt deeper into authoritarianism than former president Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in 2011 after ruling for three decades under a state of emergency.

They also include amending article 200 of the constitution to add that the military’s duty is to protect “the constitution and democracy and the fundamental makeup of the country and its civil nature.” Some critics fear these changes will give the military more influence on political life in Egypt.

Egypt’s military and intelligence services play an influential role in both political and economic spheres, and have been taking a more public role since current president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi led the 2013 military overthrow of Egypt’s first freely-elected president, Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

This could allow the armed forces to support one politician at the cost of another, said Talaat Khalil, one of 16 leftist lawmakers who held a news conference on Monday to denounce the proposed amendments.

“This is a big danger,” he said.

Reporting by Amina Ismail and Mahmoud Morad; Writing by Lena Masri; Editing by Angus MacSwan