Egypt’s Moussa rejects calls to extend presidential terms

The head of the panel that drafted Egypt’s 2014 constitution, possibly the most progressive in the country’s history, denounced calls to amend the charter on Saturday, saying in a carefully-worded statement that parliament should focus instead on implementing it.

Amr Moussa, a respected statesman and a former foreign minister and Arab league chief, was apparently responding to calls by some lawmakers to extend by two years the four-year term the president serves in office.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has less than one year left in his first term. He has yet to say whether he is running for a second term, but he is widely expected to do so in June 2018. The constitution stipulates the president can only serve two terms. The relevant clause cannot be amended unless the change “brings more guarantees,” according to the constitution. Moreover, any amendment must be approved in a nationwide referendum before it comes into force.

“Renewed talk about amending the constitution in a presidential election year raises questions about the maturity of the political thought behind it,” said Moussa, who unsuccessfully ran in a 2012 presidential election won by the Islamist Mohammed Morsi. El-Sissi led the military’s 2013 ouster of Morsi, whose one-year rule proved divisive.

Calls for extending the presidential term are led by lawmakers from a pro-government bloc. As the rationale behind their calls, they say four years is not long enough to allow el-Sissi to implement his plans to revive the economy and crush an increasingly emboldened insurgency by militants led by a local affiliate of the Islamic State.

“The only thing that does not change is the Quran, but anything else that is man-made, like the constitution, can be changed to suit the conditions and circumstances of nations and people,” Gamal Abdel-Al, a senior bloc member, said in an interview published Saturday in local daily al-Shorouk.

Parliament’s speaker, the fiercely pro-el-Sissi Ali Abdel-Al, has…

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