CAIRO (Reuters) - A coalition of Egyptian parliamentarians will submit a request for constitutional amendments providing for a second chamber of parliament and the appointment of one or more deputy presidents, state news agency MENA reported on Saturday.
The move follows a separate attempt by a group of ordinary Egyptians to change presidential term limits in the constitution, which was adopted in 2014 after the military overthrew Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following protests against his rule.
Speculation has been rife that the authorities will seek changes to the constitution, which limits a president to two four-year terms in office, since President Abdel Fattah Sisi’s re-election in March in a vote against a marginal opponent.
The lawmakers’ proposed amendments will be presented to parliament speaker Ali Abdelaal on Sunday. Any changes need approval by two thirds of parliament members, followed by a referendum.
MENA said the lawmakers’ proposed changes include restoring the Shura Council, an upper chamber that operated alongside the current 596-member House of Representatives, previously known as the People’s Assembly, until it was canceled in 2014, and the appointment of one deputy or more for the president.
The proposed amendments also include a quota guaranteeing women at least 25 percent of parliament seats for women, as well as “adequate representation” for youth, farmers, workers and the country’s Christian minority.
There was no word on any proposed changes to the limit on presidential terms, but the head of the “Support Egypt” coalition, which is spearheading the amendments, Abdel-Hadi al-Qassabi, said that parliament members were entitled to present a request to amend any article in the constitution.
Qassabi said that article 226 of the constitution allows the president and a fifth of parliament members to propose an amendment to any article of the constitution.
MENA said in December that an Egyptian court had scheduled hearings of a petition by a number of ordinary Egyptians demanding that the parliament speaker take steps to introduce constitutional changes that would allow Sisi to seek re-election after his second term in office expires.
The petitioners argue that article 140 of the constitution, which sets the term limits, is “unfair to the great Egyptian people” and that eight years gives a president little time to deal with the economic and security challenges facing the country.
(This version of the story corrects the number of MPs needed to propose constitutional amendment to a fifth (not five) in paragraph 8)
Reporting by Hesham Hajali, writing by Sami Aboudi, Editing by William Maclean