Egypt's Parliament voted on constitutional amendments that would allow President Abdel Fattah el Sisi to stay on in power, possibly until 2034, and further enshrine a role for the military in state affairs.
Egypt parliament has overwhelmingly approved constitutional changes to remove term limits for President Abdel Fattah el Sisi, allowing him to stay on power possibly until 2034.
The changes are part of a package of amendments that will be further examined before final approval in the chamber and a national referendum.
On Thursday, 485 lawmakers in the 596-seat body backed the amendments.
The voting followed three rounds of discussions among representative lawmakers that started the previous day, Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Al said in a statement announced on state media.
A special legislative committee is to further examine the amendments before sending them back for a final decision within two months, followed by a nationwide referendum, likely before early May.
Critics of the move argue that Egypt is slipping back into authoritarianism, eight years after a pro-democracy uprising ended autocrat Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule, and nearly six years after Sisi led a military coup and jailed the country's first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi.
Since taking office, Sisi has ushered in an era of unprecedented crackdown on dissent and civil liberties, justifying his actions as necessary to bring stability and economic growth.
Human Rights Watch says the amendments would undermine judicial independence and expand executive powers that are already being abused in Egypt.
In general terms, the amendments only extend a president's term in office from four to six years. But they include a special article that only applies to Sisi and allows him to run two more times for six-year terms — possibly having his rule end up bridging three decades.
Sisi was elected president in 2014, and was re-elected last year after all potentially serious challengers were jailed or pressured to exit the race.
The amendments also include clauses allowing the president to appoint top judges and bypass judiciary oversight in vetting draft legislation before it is voted into law. They declare the country's military "guardian and protector" of the Egyptian state, democracy and the constitution, while also granting military courts wider jurisdiction in trying civilians.
Human Rights Watch says over 15,000 civilians, including children, have been referred to military prosecution in Egypt.