Abdel Fatah el-Sisi’s new round of constitutional amendments will help him stay in power through to 2030. However, history shows such attempts to secure power often backfire.
Egypt’s parliament has approved a constitutional amendment, which will allow Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi extend his presidential term limits from four to six years and stand for more than two terms.
Egypt’s current constitution, which was ratified in 2014, had allowed the president to hold office for a maximum of two four-year terms.
The constitutional change means that Sisi’s second term in office - which he secured in elections last year as the only viable candidate - will end in 2024, after which he will be allowed to run for a third six-year term ending in 2030.
While ostensibly tightening his grip on power, historically attempts to secure power in Egypt are often followed by periods of instability and sometimes backfire.
Jamal Abdel Nasser’s politicized military cadre
Jamal Abdel Nasser served as the President of Egypt between 1954 and 1970. The former military officer came to power by toppling Egypt’s monarch and later its first President Mohammed Naguib. He was elected in 1956 and stayed in power until his death.
After defeat in the 1967 Six Day War, factions of the military under Field Marshal Abdel Hakim Amer allegedly attempted a coup against Nasser. The attempt was unsuccessful, and prompted Nasser to begin a process of depoliticising the armed forces, arresting dozens of leading military and intelligence figures loyal to Amer.
Anwar Sadat instrumentalising Islamic movements
After Nasser’s death, Vice President Anwar Sadat, became president, immediately embarking on a campaign of liberalising politics, and giving more freedom to groups like Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic movements, and freeing political prisoners.
Sadat thought groups, such as al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya were a “useful counterweight” to Marxist and leftist oppositional movements.
However, after Egypt agreed to a peace deal with Israel during the Camp David Accords in 1978, the president became the focus of intense anger. By the late 1970s the government turned against opposition movements, launching a crackdown but that was not enough to prevent an officer named Khalid İslambouli from assassinating Sadat during a military parade in February 1981.
Hosni Mubarak trying to pass the presidency to his son
After Sadat’s assassination, Vice President Hosni Mubarak, took over leadership of the country.
His grip on power started to crumble with a constitutional amendment in May 2005 that introduced multicandidate presidential election rather than a referendum approving the People’s Assembly chosen candidate.
Mubarak won the elections, which were marred by low voter turnout and allegations of fraud. But a strong showing by opposition leader Ayman Nour gave him reason to be concerned.
Mubarak’s moulded his second son, Gamal, into a rising star in the ruling National Democratic Party with view to handing over power to him eventually.
The attempts to push his son into the limelight however, backfired, alienating members of the military, and clearing the way for Mubarak’s fall in 2011.