Share story

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian lawyer said Saturday he and others have filed a court case to force the country’s parliament to debate amending a constitutional clause that bars President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi from running for a third term in 2022.

The lawyer, Ayman Abdel-Hakim Ramadan, told The Associated Press that a Cairo court will hold its first hearing in the case Dec. 23.

El-Sissi has said he would not seek a third term but has not been categorical about it — saying, for example, that he wouldn’t stay on unless Egyptians want him to. The country’s constitution allows a maximum of two four-year terms.

Ramadan said his “love” and “admiration” for a leader who has done so much for Egypt motivated his filing. But the case could be the first step in a campaign to engineer a climate receptive to the idea of amending the constitution. It could also help gauge popular sentiment on the issue.

However, the court might throw the case out on the grounds that it cannot prescribe a course of action to the legislature, according to prominent rights lawyer Mohammed Zaree. “But this court … has a track record of ruling on issues that are clearly not part of its jurisdiction,” he said.

Parliament, packed by el-Sissi supporters, will have to vote on any constitutional amendments, which will also have to be ratified in a national referendum.

Ramadan said el-Sissi has overseen an “incredible” number of achievements since becoming president in 2014. “I love el-Sissi very much and I believe in him,” he said. “I want him president for life.”

El-Sissi earlier this year won a second, four-year term in office, showing authoritarian tendencies by running virtually unchallenged after all potentially serious candidates were either jailed or intimidated out of the race.

Since taking office, he has overseen the largest crackdown on dissent in Egypt in living memory, jailing thousands of Islamists along with secular, pro-democracy activists and rolling back freedoms won in a 2011 popular uprising.

He has also worked consistently to overhaul the economy, upgrade the country’s infrastructure and build new cities — policies that won him lavish praise from Western backers but sparked steep price rises at home.