Egyptian MP Seeks To Extend Presidential Term
Egyptian parliamentarian Ismail Nasreddine introduced a new constitutional amendment on February 26 to extend the presidential term and remove term restrictions, among other measures. While Nasreddine justified the move as beneficial for democracy and long-term policy planning, it comes alongside declining support for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi amid national economic troubles and security concerns. The current Egyptian Constitution was adopted in January 2014, six months after the popular uprising and military overthrow that ousted Mohamed Morsi and replaced him with el-Sisi. Article 140 limits the president to two four-year terms, outlines elections procedures, and bars the president from “hold[ing] any partisan position for the duration of the presidency.” Article 103 requires that Egyptian MPs “devote [themselves] to the tasks of membership” and keep their posts “in accordance with the law.” Article 190 sets out the mandate of Egypt’s State Council, declaring it “an independent judiciary body” that serves as an administrative court system.
Nasreddine has served as an independent MP since the Mubarak days, representing the working- class Helwan region of South Cairo. A member of the Committee on Housing, Nasreddine has worked on reforming Egypt’s rent laws. Under Nasreddine’s proposed plan, el-Sisi would be able to serve an unlimited number of six-year terms, MPs would gain additional benefits, and the State Council’s power would be checked. The changes would ensure the president’s right to run for office and “the right of the people to choose or reject him,” Nasreddine announced, adding that longer terms would allow the president greater opportunity for long-term planning. The MP has begun collecting signatures for the proposition, which requires 20 percent support to begin parliamentary debate, as well as a two-thirds vote to pass. Finally, the amendment must be approved by a referendum. It is unclear whether el-Sisi will run for re-election, and Nasreddine stated on March 1 that he would delay the amendment, citing constituents’ concerns and stressing that the changes would not apply to el- Sisi’s term.
As President, el-Sisi has confronted numerous security and economic challenges. Egypt faces an insurgency in Sinai from the Sinai Province group, an ISIS affiliate. North Sinai has been under a state of emergency since an October 2014 attack killed 33 security personnel, and Egypt’s Coptic Christians have been repeatedly targeted by sectarian militant attacks. The government has cracked down in response; the Army’s Twitter account features photos of white pickup trucks burning in the desert and “takfiris” kneeling at the feet of armed troops, their faces blurred. Likewise, governmental pressure on civil society has drawn alarm from rights groups. Human Rights Watch asserted in January that “public criticism and peaceful opposition to the government remain effectively banned in Egypt,” citing the imprisonment of dissidents, state efforts to sanction and regulate NGOs, and limitations on civil liberties.
Egypt has been suffering from poverty and debt. El-Sisi’s administration has cut fuel subsidies, instituted a value-added tax, and free- floated the local currency to hurdle the economic challenges. El-Sisi is generally popular among Egyptians, who believe he has ensured security and stability, but his support has recently taken a downturn because of the government's austerity measures.