Egypt parliament to vote this week to extend El-Sisi’s rule

Egyptian President and new African Union chairperson Abdel Fattah al-Sisi walks during the 32nd African Union (AU) during the 32nd African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa on February 10, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 11 February 2019
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Egypt parliament to vote this week to extend El-Sisi’s rule

  • The vote was initially scheduled for next week, but is now being held as early as Wednesday
  • The development comes despite concerns that Egypt is slipping back into authoritarianism

CAIRO: Egypt’s parliament has put a rush on voting on proposed constitutional amendments that would allow President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to stay in office well beyond his current term, which ends in 2022.
The vote was initially scheduled for next week, but is now being held as early as Wednesday, lawmaker Nadia Henry said Monday.
The development comes despite concerns that Egypt is slipping back into authoritarianism, eight years after a pro-democracy uprising ended autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s nearly three-decade rule.
El-Sisi led the 2013 military overthrow of elected but divisive Islamist President Muhammad Mursi, and was elected the following year. Since then, he has presided over an unprecedented crackdown on dissent, and was re-elected last year after all potentially serious challengers were jailed or pressured to exit the race.
Once approved by lawmakers, the constitutional amendments would have to be put to a national referendum, Parliament spokesman Ahmed Saad el-Din said Sunday.
The 596-seat assembly had given its preliminary approval to the changes last week. The motion is near-certain to be approved by the legislature, packed with El-Sisi’s supporters.
The amendments also include novelties: the office of vice president, a revived Senate, and a 25 percent quota for women in Parliament. It also calls for “adequate” representation for workers, farmers, young people and people with special needs in the legislature.
The president would have the power to appoint top judges and bypass judiciary oversight in vetting draft legislation before it is voted into law.
The amendments are no surprise; pro-government figures and media have been lobbying for months that two terms are not enough for El-Sisi to fulfil his vision of modernizing the country, including overhauling its economy and defeating Islamic militants.
Yasser Rizq, chairman of the state-owned Al-Akhbar daily and a close confidant of El-Sisi, argued that the amendments were necessary to prevent Islamists from gaining power. He said he expects the referendum to take place before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. This year, Ramdan is expected to start in early May.
Former foreign minister Amr Moussa on Saturday called for “a wide national dialogue” on the amendments. Moussa, who also served as Arab League secretary-general, had chaired the panel that drafted Egypt’s current constitution in 2014.
He urged that all voices, advocates and opponents, should be heard “to enrich the political life in the country and guarantee credibility to the amendments.”


Erdogan: Turkey’s S-400 missile systems purchase from Russia ‘done deal’

Updated 16 February 2019
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Erdogan: Turkey’s S-400 missile systems purchase from Russia ‘done deal’

ANKARA: Turkey will not turn back from its deal to buy S-400 missile systems from Russia, President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Saturday, a day after an informal deadline Washington set for Ankara to respond to a rival offer passed.
NATO member Turkey has repeatedly said it is committed to buying the Russian missile defense system, despite warnings from the US-led alliance that the S-400s cannot be integrated into the NATO air defense system.
US officials had set an informal deadline of February 15 for Ankara to respond to the rival US offer and have said that if Turkey proceeds with the S-400 purchase, Washington will withdraw its offer to sell a $3.5 billion Raytheon Co. Patriot missile package.
They have also said it would jeopardize Turkey’s purchase of Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 fighter jets and possibly result in the United States imposing sanctions.
However, speaking to reporters on the flight back from the Russian resort of Sochi, where a three-way summit on Syria between Turkey, Russia and Iran was held, Erdogan said Ankara would press on with the S-400 purchases.
“We made the S-400 deal with Russia, so it out of the question for us to turn back. That’s done,” Erdogan said, according to broadcaster NTV.
He said Turkey was open to purchasing Patriot systems from the United States as long as the deal served Turkey’s interests, but added there were issues on delivery and production that were still being discussed with Washington.
“The US administration views the early delivery issue positively, but they won’t say anything about joint production or a credit. We continue our work based on the promise of the S-400 deliveries in July.”
The formal US offer for Turkey’s purchase of Patriot systems expires at the end of March, US officials have told Reuters, after which a new offer would have to be submitted.
The US asked Turkey to give at least an informal answer on whether it would go ahead with its S-400 purchase by February 15, one US official said.
It was not immediately clear whether Turkey had responded to the US offer.