Egypt Lawmakers Push Ahead With Extending El-Sisi's Term

(Bloomberg) -- Egypt’s parliament pushed ahead a proposal that could extend President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s grip on power until 2036, to the dismay of critics who say he’s steered the country back on an authoritarian course.

Lawmakers voted to send the planned constitutional amendments to parliament’s legislative committee, Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said. Approval was widely expected in a legislature packed with El-Sisi’s supporters.

The changes would extend the length of the executive’s term to six years from the current four and include a “transitional article” that would allow him to run for president two more times.

El-Sisi was elected in 2014, a year after leading a military-backed popular uprising that ousted his Islamist predecessor. He won a second term after all serious challengers either bowed out, or were arrested or disqualified. His last-minute rival was an ardent supporter who won less than 4 percent of the vote.

Under El-Sisi’s leadership, Egypt’s economy is undergoing broad reforms that he says are meant to reverse decades of mismanagement.

But associated austerity measures have deepened the widespread poverty in the nation of 100 million people. And the push to revive the economy has served as a major justification for a crackdown on dissent that’s jailed tens of thousands of Islamists and opponents and helped to consolidate his power.

The legislative committee will have 60 days to review the proposed amendments and send them back to the full plenary for a vote. If the measures are approved as expected, they’ll be brought to a national referendum.

Critics lamented what they said was a return to the authoritarian days of Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a popular uprising in 2011 that was seen at the time as setting the country on the course to democracy.

“Repression did not and will not be the solution,” tweeted Nobel Peace laureate and former Egyptian vice president Mohamed ElBaradei.

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