This spring, as Egypt’s parliament debated handing President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi greater power and allowing him to govern until 2030, speaker Ali Abdelaal declared the proposals were the will of the nation’s legislature. The ideas, he said, were “born in parliament, and the president has nothing to do with them, from near or far.” The reality was different, said five people with knowledge of the matter, according to a special Reuters investigation:
In interviews, lawmakers, security sources and people with links to Egyptian intelligence described how Sisi’s supporters rewrote key passages of the constitution to give the president and the military greater power, then pushed the changes through a pliant parliament and the public vote. One of Egypt’s few independent news outlets, Mada Masr, first reported that Sisi’s son and intelligence chief Abbas Kamel attended talks about changing the constitution. Reuters pieced together more details about the discussions and how lawmakers and the media were brought into line….“The tyrant regime is legitimized,” said Hamdeen Sabahi, a former presidential candidate and a senior member of the Civil Democratic Movement, an alliance of opposition groups.
Timothy Kaldas, a non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, a pro-democracy think tank, said the Egyptian government had tried to sell the changes as “some normal constitutional housekeeping and sweeping the extension of his presidency as just a small part of a package of improvements to the constitution.”