The Egyptian parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly approved proposed constitutional changes which would allow President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi to stay in power beyond 2022 when his current term ends.
The proposals, approved by 485 lawmakers in the 596-strong parliament, include extending the presidential term from four to six years, and envisage a bigger role for the army.
Each lawmaker was asked whether they accepted or rejected the “principle” of amending some articles in the charter, Egyptian state television reported.
Thursday’s vote was only the first of several stages in amending the constitution.
The proposed changes will now go to the assembly’s Legislative and Constitutional Committee for further study, which could take up to two months.
The changes must then be approved in a final vote by at least two thirds of parliament before they are put up to a public referendum.
The legislature, led by Mr al-Sissi’s loyalists, held a marathon debate on Wednesday on the draft amendments to the 2014 constitution.
The draft also proposes a “transitional’’ provision that allows Mr al-Sissi to stay well beyond his second and final term under the current constitution.
Should the proposed amendments be finally adopted, Mr al-Sissi can run for two more terms – six years each, potentially staying in power until 2034.
The amendments also suggest creating a supreme council for the judiciary, headed by the president of the country, with the aim of coordinating different judicial institutions.
Proponents say the changes are necessary for long-lasting stability in Egypt, roiled by turmoil that followed a 2011 revolt and a wave of militant attacks.
Opponents say the amendment are aimed at tightening al-Sissi’s hold on power and breaches the judiciary’s independence.
Mr Al-Sissi has been governing Egypt since 2014, a year after he led the army’s ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi following mass protests against his rule.
In 2017, Mr al-Sissi ruled out changing the constitution to allow him run for a third term.
In 2018, he was re-elected with a landslide in polls that pitted him only against a self-declared loyalist.