Top Egypt editor suggests Sisi could serve more terms

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Cairo (AFP)

A top Egyptian newspaper editor close to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday suggested that the constitution could be amended to allow the leader to serve beyond a two-term limit.

Yasser Rizq, chairman of the state-owned Al-Akhbar newspaper, made the suggestion in a column lamenting "the lack of political forces or parties... who can shoulder (presidential) responsibilities".

He went on to say that "concerning the constitution there are several suggestions... that should be discussed" both in the media and in parliament.

Sisi swept to a second term with 97 percent of votes in a March election that saw him face no serious rivals.

Sisi, who as army chief ousted Egypt's first freely elected president Mohamed Morsi after mass street protests in 2013, won his first term in 2014 with 96.9 percent of votes.

The Egyptian constitution was adopted in 2014 and stipulates that a president can serve two terms of four years each, but no more than that.

Article 226 of the constitution further stipulates that "articles pertaining to the re-election of the president cannot be amended".

Sisi has said he has no ambition to stay after the end of his second term in 2022.

Suggestions that he could serve beyond that date are not new.

Last year a lawmaker called for a constitutional amendment to allow presidents to serve more than two consecutive terms.

His suggestion sparked debate and was ultimately not welcomed.

But after Sisi's re-election this year to a second term, some analysts said he could try for a third.

"All options are open," said Hassan Nafea, political science professor at Cairo University.

"The question now is whether he will resort to amending the constitution to cancel the article that stipulates a president may not rule for more than two terms, or whether he will find another military man to take his place, or will he take the democratic choice," Nafea said.

Mostafa Kamel al-Sayed, a political science professor at Cairo University, argued there was a "big chance" Sisi would have the constitution amended.

"His supporters have started discussing this (in media), especially to amend the article" on two presidential terms, he said.