Egypt lawmaker slams autocrat Sisi ahead of 'president-for-life referendum'

'I'm unhappy with Sisi': Egypt lawmaker makes rare criticism ahead of vote to extend rule
2 min read
19 April, 2019
An opposition lawmaker in Egypt has made rare public criticism of the country's leader as authorities push forward constitutional amendments that will allow him to stay in power until 2030.
Sisi's government has been widely criticised by human rights groups [Getty]

An opposition lawmaker in Egypt has made rare public criticism of the country's leader as authorities push forward constitutional amendments that will allow him to stay in power until 2030.

Ahmed Tantawi made the sharp comments during a parliamentary session this week as lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the changes extending presidential terms from four to six years.

"I want to be very honest. I respect the right of any lawmaker who likes the president and is happy with his performance," Tantawi told jeering parliamentarians.

"But personally, I don't like the president, I don't trust him and I am not happy with his performance. Does that anger anyone?" the member of the opposition 25/30 coalition added.

Tantawi has long been a harsh critic of the amendments that could allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to stay in power for a decade more.

Egypt's opposition political parties have called on voters to participate in a referendum on the constitutional changes and vote "No".

The opposition has said they have been banned from hanging banners in the streets to call on voters to reject the amendments and said they have only used social media to reach out to people.

A three-day nationwide referendum that starts Saturday was apparently designed to maximise turnout.

The dates were announced less than 24 hours after parliament, packed with el-Sissi's supporters, overwhelmingly approved the proposed changes that also set to further enshrine the military's role in politics.

The referendum comes after two veteran presidents, Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Omar al-Bashir, were ousted in Algeria and Sudan, respectively, this month following mass street demonstrations.

As army chief of staff at the time, Sisi led the military's overthrow of elected president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 following mass protests against the Islamist leader's rule.

He won his first term as president in 2014, three years after the uprising that toppled Mubarak, and was re-elected in March 2018 with more than 97 percent of the vote, after standing virtually unopposed.

His government has been widely criticised by human rights groups for the repression of political opponents.