CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s Parliament on Tuesday passed amendments to the constitution that could see President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi remain in power until 2030.
The vote, which sends the amendments to a national referendum, was seen by critics as another step back to authoritarianism, eight years after a pro-democracy uprising ended autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule.
The 596-member assembly, packed with el-Sissi’s supporters, overwhelmingly gave its initial approval in February, sending it to the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee to finalize the wording before Tuesday’s final vote.
Of the 554 lawmakers who attended the session, 531 voted “yes,” 22 voted “no” and one abstained.
“Today we are concluding what we started in February,” speaker Ali Abdel-Al said at the beginning of the session. “In this great day, we offer to the Egyptian people a draft bill of the constitutional amendments.”
The national referendum will likely take place before early May when the Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts.
Since early April, the Egyptian capital has been awash with large posters and banners encouraging people to vote in favor of the changes. In Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, where mass protests became the symbol of the 2011 anti-Mubarak uprising and of hopes for democratic change in Egypt, the posters urge people to vote in the referendum.
“Take part, say ... ‘yes’ for the constitutional amendments,” says one banner near the pro-government Nation’s Future Party. Most of the posters were apparently funded by pro-government parties, businessmen and lawmakers.
The constitutional changes would only extend a president’s term in office from four to six years and allow for a maximum of two terms. But they also include a special article specific to el-Sissi that extends his current second four-year term to six years and allows him to run for another six-year term in 2024 — potentially extending his rule until 2030.
Justifying this clause, speaker Abdel-Al said it was aimed at “political justice ... and the required stability.”