February 3, 2019 / 4:18 PM / 5 months ago

Egypt to consider longer presidential term - lawmaker

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt will consider extending the presidential term to six years from four, a senior lawmaker said on Sunday, which could allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to stay in power beyond 2022, when his second term is due to end.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi speaks at his swearing-in of the second presidential term, at a ceremony, at the House of Representatives in Cairo, Egypt, June 2, 2018 in this handout picture courtesy of the Egyptian Presidency. The Egyptian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY

The speaker of Egypt’s parliament, Ali Abdelaal, said he had received a motion from lawmakers proposing constitutional amendments which will be considered by parliament after the motion is discussed in committee. He gave no details on the proposed changes.

But Abdel-Hadi al-Qassabi, head of the Support Egypt parliamentary bloc that is sponsoring the amendments, said the proposed changes included extending the presidential term.

“Looking to maintain stability and to complete the development plans, there is a proposal to extend the presidential term to six years,” Qassabi told journalists in parliament before the motion was conveyed to Abdelaal.

Speculation has been building that authorities would seek to change the current constitution, approved in a 2014 referendum, to allow Sisi to remain in office.

It was not immediately clear if the proposed amendments would scrap the two-term limit stipulated in the current constitution or if that limit would be retained to apply to the longer new six-year presidency.

Constitutional changes could take months because they require approval by two thirds of parliament’s 596 members followed by a referendum.

Parliament, which Abdelaal said would be allowed to debate any proposed changes, overwhelmingly supports Sisi.

The current constitution, approved by a referendum in 2014, allows the president and a fifth of parliament members to propose an amendment to any of the constitution’s articles, said Qassabi.

The proposed changes also include adding a second, upper parliamentary chamber known as the Council of Senators as well as the appointment of one or more deputy presidents, he said.

Egypt had a second upper chamber known as the Shura Council, but it was abolished in 2014.

Other proposals include a quota guaranteeing women at least 25 percent of seats in parliament, as well as “adequate representation” for youth, farmers, workers and the country’s Christian minority.

Egyptian state news agency MENA said in December that an Egyptian court had scheduled hearings of a petition by a number of ordinary Egyptians demanding that the speaker of parliament 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 too little time to deal with the economic and security challenges facing the country.

Reporting by Mohamed Abdellah and Ahmed Tolba, writing by Sami Aboudi, Editing by Aidan Lewis and Susan Fenton

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