Tawadros II accepts extending presidential term in principle

Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of St. Mark, said on Wednesday he did not mind amending the constitution to set the president’s term of office to six years instead of four years.

He added in an interview with host Amr Abdel Hamid on the TeN channel that the constitution was developed by humans and thus could be subjected to amendments if the situation required.

Egypt is witnessing serious efforts to promote the principle of citizenship through tangible steps after decades of stagnation, Tawadros said, commenting on the current rule of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, expressing his appreciation and pride for such steps.

“President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has had a close relationship with me since he was a defense minister. I met him with a church delegation. I heard him and talked to him for two hours. He explained many things. He has a great ability to connect and remember numbers. He is characterized by calmness,” Tawadros said.

He added that “the personality of Sisi allows his relationship with all Egyptians to be good. My impression about him has been good since we first met…There is amiable continuous communication with him, which is a blessing from our Lord,” he said.

Parliamentary sources stated at the end of 2017 that they do not expect the House of Representatives will discuss any amendments to the constitution soon, adding that the General Secretariat of the parliament has not received any requests to amend the constitution.

The sources described reports on the amendment of the presidential term as merely personal and individual suggestions.

MP Mostafa Bakry, a member of parliament’s legislative committee, said that talk of modifying the term is not in the interest of the country, pointing out that President Sisi had previously confirmed that he did not wish to extend his term of office.

“I hope that all of those who talk about amending the constitution will stop it, and in no case should anyone from now demand the extension of the term of office of the president, especially as this will cause many crises and problems. I hope that the president will reject all these attempts which abort the struggle of the Egyptian people over the past years,” Bakry told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

MP Osama Heikal, head of the culture and information committee, said he had no information that Egypt was about to make constitutional amendments to extend the term of the president, describing the idea as mere speculation.

Egypt needs the parliament to focus on economic reforms and not constitutional amendments, as well as to review borrowing and deal with it differently, Heikal added.

Egypt also needs monetary reform, so the House of Representatives should discuss these matters instead, he added.

MP Esmail Nasr al-Din backed down last week from requests to extend the presidential period from four years to six years, saying that the change won’t apply to President Sisi’s current four-year term.

Nasr al-Din said in comments published in Al-Shorouk that the proposed amendment would only apply to the next president. Any amendment to the relevant clause in the 2014 constitution must be approved in a nationwide referendum.

His proposal, first made several months ago, was suspended and then renewed earlier this month and has been backed by the parliament’s largest pro-government bloc.

However, it was also opposed by political commentators and politicians, who consider it a violation to Egypt’s 2014 constitution.

A number of party members collected signatures for a petition rejecting the proposed draft law; more than 40 political figures signed.

According to an official statement released from Nasr al-Din earlier this month, the suggested draft law would extend the presidential term in order to give the president ample time to execute plans.

The statement noted that it is vital nowadays to put radical amendments in the current constitution, as its articles were drafted under circumstances that are completely different than the current situation in Egypt.

Edited Translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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