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Egypt media told to keep silent on parliament arrangements to amend Constitution

Egyptian members of the constitution committee listen to US-Egyptian Nobel prize-winning scientist Ahmed Zewail at the Shura council in Cairo on 11 September 2012 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/GettyImages]
Egyptian members of the constitution committee listen to US-Egyptian Nobel prize-winning scientist Ahmed Zewail at the Shura council in Cairo on 11 September 2012 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/GettyImages]

Sources from the Egyptian parliament revealed that there are strict instructions issued by the intelligence officer in charge of the presidency, to newspaper editors and television hosts not to discuss under any circumstances the constitution amendments, which the Egyptian parliament intends to make to extend the mandate of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.

According to statements, the intelligence services’ plan is to “reset the counter” by keeping the presidential mandate limited to two terms only, while allowing El Sisi to run for two new terms (despite the end of his term) through a transitional text which permits the possibility of not counting his previous and current terms.

The same sources expected that the Nation’s Future Party would present a proposal to amend the Constitution, during the House of Representatives’ sessions scheduled for next week, aiming at extending the presidential term from four to six years.

This proposal includes the reduction of many of powers attributed to the parliament in favour of the president of the republic, the restoration of the Shura Council as a second legislative chamber, as well as lifting the immunity of Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, in addition to the amendments of some acts of the judiciary.

Observers believe that the Nation’s Future Party is backed by the General Intelligence Directorate.

The sources revealed that the request to amend the Constitution would include signatures of more than 450 MPs out 595, instead of one-fifth of deputies according to the provisions of the Constitution, reported Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

The first procedure would be discussing the principle of the amendment and voting by a two-thirds majority on whether to accept the amendment, before proceeding with the discussion of the articles to be amended, as well as the reasons and justifications for the amendment.

The sources pointed out that MP Mustafa Bakri is promoting the acceleration of the amendment on the instructions of the National Security Agency. This is in an attempt to motivate MPs to make statements to media supporting the upcoming amendment during the current parliamentary session, especially as they are fully aware that the next parliamentary elections will employ the closed list system with 75 to 80 per cent of the total number of electoral lists. Such an arrangement will ensure the security system’s control of the names enlisted for the elections.

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The sources indicated that the intelligence officer in charge of the presidency, LtColonel Ahmed Shaaban, instructed the chief editors of government and private newspapers and talk shows producers on satellite channels not to discuss the upcoming amendments during the coming days or the articles to be amended before the official submission of the amendment by the majority party.

Shaaban’s instructions included hosting some prominent members of the 2014 Constitution Committee on satellite channels to talk about the importance of amending the constitution and promote the principle of amending in general, in addition to paving the way for a comprehensive societal discussion regarding the articles to be included in the amendment.

Former Chairman of the 50-member Commission, Amr Moussa, and Sameh Ashour, President of Lawyer Bar Association, are among the first names to be invited to talk shows to promote the amendment.

The sources stressed that the draft amendment to the Constitution was prepared inside the headquarters of the General Intelligence Directorate, with the exclusion of the possibility to allow the extension of presidential terms, as in the case of the 1971 amendments to the Constitution to avoid provoking the US administration and the European Union.

The sources stated that the amendments would permit El Sisi to be re-elected (after the end of his mandate) through a transitional text which permits the possibility of not counting his previous and current terms.

El Sisi’s second term ends in June 2022, and he is not eligible for re-election under the current Constitution, which restricts presidential mandates for two terms with a total of eight years.

However, the proposed amendment stipulates that the Constitution does not take in consideration previous presidential mandates and paves the way for El Sisi to serve two other terms of six years each, without prejudice to the duration of his current term.

 

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