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8 Egypt human rights groups reject calls to amend constitution

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in Cairo, Egypt, on 11 June 2018 [Egyptian President Office/Apaimages]
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in Cairo, Egypt, on 11 June 2018 [Egyptian President Office/Apaimages]

Eight Egyptian human rights NGOs have rejected calls to amend the constitution to allow President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to hold a third term in office, meaning he will be in power for more than eight years.

In a statement yesterday, the organisations called on “free Egyptian voices to push on against Al-Sisi’s commitment to the provisions of the 2014 constitution and to leave office as soon as his second and final term ends in June 2022”.

The organisations which signed the statement said that the calls to amend the constitution “would have been more appropriate if they had demanded respect for its articles, especially those relating to rights and freedoms, which have been violated on a daily basis since its adoption, rather than seeking to amend it so as to grant special status to Al-Sisi and strengthening autocracy”.

Among those which signed the statement are the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Egyptian Front for Human Rights, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, the Committee for Justice, El Nadim Centre, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, The Arab Penal Reform Organisation and Belady Centre for Rights and Freedoms.

The statement added that running for presidency for only two terms “is – almost – the only gain won by the democratic movement on 25 January 2011,” saying that “the violation of this gain represents a real threat to the political and social stability of the country”.

The NGOs also accused Al-Sisi of tightening his grip on the country, closing the public sphere and “convincing the media with nationalization by selling newspapers and private channels to the security services and imposing his control to guide the media discourse”.

The statement also accused Al-Sisi of imprisoning political opponents against the backdrop of fake accusations.

Read: 8 years after uprising, Egyptians say freedoms have eroded

The statement called for respect of the constitution, ending its manipulation for personal purposes, reopening the public sphere and launching a comprehensive reform process. This could be achieved by “creating an environment conducive to social peace based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination and comprehensive national reconciliation among all political, religious, and ethnic parties,” it added.

Parliamentarians and journalists affiliated with the Egyptian government have been campaigning for broad constitutional amendments, including extending the presidential term from four to six years. They have also advocated for extending the presidential term instead of limiting it to two terms, as stipulated by the Egyptian constitution, as well as the formation of a council for the protection of the state headed by Al-Sisi.

The Constitution stipulates that “the President of the Republic shall be elected for a term of four years, beginning from the day following the expiry of his predecessor’s term, and he may be re-elected only once”. The second and last term of Al-Sisi will end in mid-2022, amid a major loss of popularity due to the deteriorating economic and living conditions in Egypt.

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