An independent Egyptian lawmaker stirred controversy after proposing a motion to extend presidential terms from four to six years, only a year before the current term of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi comes to an end.
Lawmaker Ismail Nasreddine said Sunday he will start collecting signatures to amend article 140 of the constitution to extend presidential terms, and lift restrictions on re-election, to allow a president to run for more than the two four-year terms currently permitted.
In statements to the press, Nasreddine claimed the current rules restrain “the will of the nation” which should have the right to amend the constitution to suit the period’s circumstances, “regardless of who is the president.”
"It will be the right of the president to nominate himself for the office as he wishes... and the right of the people to choose him or reject him," he told reporters.
He also noted that extending the presidential term from four to six years was a “necessity” for countries that recently experienced democratic and economic changes, as it helps the executive authority to stay in power for a relatively long period to deliver long term plans.
The lawmaker will need the support of 20 percent of MPs to table a discussion on the issue in parliament. And even if he is able to push an amendment through parliament by the required two-thirds majority, the constitution also stipulates that any revision be approved by public referendum.
But the timing of the motion triggered a debate on whether it is intended to allow Sisi to seek a re-election, when his current term ends in 2018. So far, Sisi has not said whether he will seek re-election and promised to respect the will of Egyptians.
Constitutional law professor Salah Fawzy said nothing prevented amending the constitution, but the amendment has to be either requested by the president, or at least approved by two-thirds of the members of the parliament, and then approved by the people in a referendum, in statements to Al Watan newspaper.
Public law professor Ahmad Mahran said not only the public should have a say on the amendments, but that “constitutional amendments should only be made for reasons considered in the public interest and national security”, describing the current calls for extending presidential terms as “attempts to get closer to the leadership.”
In the same vein, constitutional expert Shawky Sayed said the request by Nasreddine is “inappropriate and unconstitutional”, saying amendments have to follow a certain procedure, and that it can’t be based on “a member who suddenly thought of changing its articles, so it gets amended.
(This article includes information from Reuters)