Eight rights organizations have denounced recent calls from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s backers to amend the Egyptian Constitution to allow him a third term.
In a statement on Friday, the signatories called on “all independent voices able to speak up freely to pressure President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to declare his commitment to comply with Egypt’s Constitution and leave office when his second and final presidential term ends in June 2022.”
Those calling for amendments should call for the parts of the Constitution that are being violated on a daily basis — especially those on rights and freedoms — to be upheld, rather than seeking to provide Sisi with a special position to consolidate individual rule, the statement said.
The signatories are Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Egyptian Front for Human Rights, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, the Committee for Justice, the Nadeem Center, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, the Arab Organization for Criminal Reform, and the Belady Center for Rights and Freedoms.
Mada Masr revealed government plans to amend the Constitution in an exclusive report in December. The changes would extended Sisi’s term in office beyond 2022, the year which should mark the end of his second and final presidential term. Several sources told Mada that meetings have been held on a near daily basis at the General Intelligence Services (GIS) headquarters between GIS officials and the president’s office in order to finalize the amendments and keep Sisi in power until at least 2026.
Sisi’s backers have been increasingly vocal in recent weeks about their support for constitutional changes to keep the president in power. The head of state-run daily Al-Akhbar, Yasser Rizk, who has close ties to the government, published an editorial on December 30 expressing hope that 2019 would see “the start of a belated political reform” to secure Sisi’s future in power and that the changes could be approved by late summer 2019. “In 2022, if President Sisi leaves office as the current Constitution stipulates, Egypt could face an uncertain future,” Rizk warned.
Today’s statement said that “Presidential term limits (two four-year terms) effectively stand as the sole enduring democratic gain following the revolution of January 25, 2011.” Undoing this achievement “is not only a grave loss to those Egyptians who fought for it, but is also a genuine threat to Egypt’s political and social stability.”
On January 8 over 1000 citizens, politicians and public figures signed a statement rejecting the calls. They expressed “shock and anger” at the “repeated media requests demanding the amendment of certain articles of the Constitution … for the sole purpose of extending the current presidential term, and keeping the current president in power.”
“The signatories believe that this absurdity will deepen the current regime’s crisis of legitimacy, a result of its neglect and continuous violation of many articles of the Constitution,” the January 8 statement added.
Today’s statement accused Sisi of consolidating his stronghold over the country. “He has shut down the public sphere and effectively nationalized the press through the sale of newspapers and private channels to the security apparatus, allowing the state to dominate media discourse,” it said, adding that he had crushed the opposition and human rights movements.
“In the view of the signatory organizations, the country is set on a catastrophic course that can only be averted if the government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is to dedicate the rest of his constitutionally limited-term to upholding Egypt’s Constitution and its laws,” the statement concluded.