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Egypt’s parliament approved amendments that can keep President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in office till 2030 and increase his control of other state apparatus.
Egypt's parliament Tuesday approved amendments to the constitution that could keep President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in power until 2030, though their decision still has to be endorsed in a referendum to take effect.
Egypt's election commission said Wednesday that the referendum will take place on April 20-22.
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. The amendments would also bolster the role of the military in political life and increase the president's power over the judiciary.
The 596-member parliament, which is dominated by Sisi's supporters, voted 531 to 22 in favor of the amendments.
This move will concentrate more powers in the hands of a leader known for cracking down on dissent.
"This will result in the most centralized system for rule that Egypt has seen in almost half a century," said Nathan Brown, professor of political science at George Washington University.
According to Michele Dunne, director and senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Middle East Program, the amendments seek to remove political competitions for Sisi. "They will also become a strong public grievance against him and might sow the seeds of his ultimate undoing,” said Dunne.
The changes include creating a second parliamentary chamber to be known as the Senate, composed of at least 180 members, a third of whom would be appointed by the president. They would also give the president new powers over the appointment of judges and the public prosecutor.
The Civil Democratic Movement, a coalition of Egyptian opposition parties, called on parliament to reject the changes and on Egyptians to vote against the amendments in the planned referendum.
On Monday NetBlocks, an internet monitoring group, said Egypt had blocked access to an estimated 34,000 internet domains in an apparent attempt to eliminate an online campaign opposing the proposed amendments. “We believe that a president should not stay in power more than 10 years because this means that he can stay forever,” said Akmal Qortam of the Conservative party.
Sisi was re-elected last year and if the changes are confirmed, the next election will be in 2024.
Mohamed Sadat, the nephew of the former president Anwar Sadat, said that the amendments will take Egypt backward. “Since the legislative authority and the state institutions do not grasp the dangers of violating the constitution and tailoring specific articles to fit only the president” Sadat’s Reform and Development party “calls all Egyptians to turn out and reject the amendments.”