Al Sisiís presidential ambitions conflict with Egyptís constitution

Ashraf Ramelah
2019 / 4 / 5

By virtue of its own authority every dictatorial power -- whether of military, religiousī-or-national -- creates for the country a vital, intellectual spaceī-or-atmosphere where propaganda can flourish. This is the means to enact authoritarian projects for the purpose of tightening a grip on society and to justify repressive actions. One such project is Al Sisiís future presidential ambitions.

Past Egyptian regimes (as well as the present one) self-promote through public boasting and seek praise for their achievements by deluding the public. One case in point is Al Sisiís Suez Canal mega-project. Egyptians are still waiting to see its benefits. For the regime to control the narrative, it will pre-empt the opposition in staged ďdemocraticĒ debates on TV forums. The actors, host and guests, are well-versed in satisfying the regimeís desired outcomes.

An army of writers, journalists and broadcasters Ė servants of the regime -- are always ready to serve the next authoritarian project when it comes along. Todayís mission of the Egyptian regime is to convince the public that President Al Sisi, who is in the middle of his second and final four-year term, needs more time in office than the current constitution allows. Al Sisi must continue. He has made promises to the people he needs to fulfill.

Al Sisi has said publicly more than once that he needs additional time to accomplish his goals. He must blatantly disregard the constitution to run for a third term Ė grabbing the potential to rule the country for many years to come. It matters little to him that Egyptís constitution requires a president to have only two terms in office.

He will simply blame the populace for begging him to run for re-election Ė a figment of his imagination. Egyptians are still reeling over Al Sisiís last offense against the constitution when prior to signing away Egyptian land (two islands in the Red Sea) to Saudi Arabia he neglected to seek parliamentary approval and a referendum vote from the people.

His faction in parliament is now pressing for an unconstitutionally proposed amendment to Article 140 that will give Egyptís next president two six-year terms. This is fully intended for Al Sisi and a 20-year presidency by the year 2034.

Itís being tailored for his longevity. Letís not forget that Al Sisiís challengers and potentially serious contenders for president are now sitting in jailī-or-were threatened out of existence during the second-term primary. Itís therefore likely that Al Sisi will in the near future join the ranks of Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak for duration and pretty much all else.

The mechanics of Al Sisiís latest constitutional breach

According to Egyptís constitutional Article 226, it takes five members of the Egyptian Parliament to request a change in the form of an amendment to any article of the constitution. However, according to the same Article 226, presidential term-limit-s (described in Article 140) can never be modified. Therefore, requesting to presidential term-limit-s is unconstitutional.

Ahmad Helmy, the secretary of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee deceiving his listeners on a TV show answered the hostís question by misapplying Article 226 and misleading his audience stating, ďThe parliament has the right to present a request to modify the constitution if provided by and submitted by at least five of its members.Ē Helmy, a loyalist to Al Sisi, omitted saying that Article 226 prohibits any changes dealing with presidential elections such as term-limit-sī-or-any other freedom-limit-ing idea.

This February, the state started its propaganda campaign favoring the need for the term-limits changes, while the fake opposition of the regime began countering it. While the state promoted the pro and con arguments on the airwaves, many negative events occurred to clog up the news stream creating distractions from this critical issue. For example, litigation began between the heads of the two popular soccer clubs of Cairo. At the same time in the first twenty days of February three terror attacks on military and police forces took place resulting in many losses and injuries.

Finally, by the end of February a passenger train crashed in Cairo station killing fifty people and injuring 150 more per the official statement. Moreover, a sexual scandal began and went viral pertaining to MP and film -dir-ector, Khaled Youssef, when a video leaked the story. Importantly, Youssef is vocal in his opposition to the term-limits amendment.
No real surprise

By a combination of ignoring the constitution and attempting to illegally change the constitution it is a forgone conclusion that Egypt will gain another very long term president and regime whether citizens like itī-or-not. For those paying close attention, the current situation comes as no surprise. Al Sisi has always had an ďIslamic militaryĒ disdain for the constitution.

Back in March 2015, one year into Al Sisiís first term, he was questioned during a youth conference about certain percentages of national income going to education, health and research as per Article 18, 19, and 21 of the Egyptian constitution, and the president replied, ďThis constitution was written in a naÔve way, but nation states cannot be built solely in a naÔve way.Ē

Historical omen

Illegally changing the constitutionī-or-trying to have always ended badly for Egyptís presidents. Reaching the end of his first term Sadat modified Article 77 of the 1971 constitution on May 22, 1980 so that he could extend his time in office. Although successful in making the change, he was assassinated in his second term.

The revision for unlimited presidential terms brought by Sadat allowed Mubarak to remain for thirty years before he tried to change the constitution to have his son follow in his footsteps. Shortly after, he was ousted from office by the Egyptian uprising. Morsi changed articles of the constitution by using executive orders to protect his own interests. It led -dir-ectly to the uprising removing him from office.

Al Sisi may succeed at his attempts to change the constitution, but as history demonstrates there is no guarantee he will ultimately gain his presidential ambitions.

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