First they would do away with the current requirement

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authority in three main ways. First, they would do away with the current requirement that he leave office in 2022, after eight years, and enable him to stay in power until 2034. This change would abrogate Sisi’s pledge to respect the sole remaining win from the 2011 uprising against Mubarak’s three-decade dictatorship: restricting presidents to two four-year terms. Moreover, there is no popular demand to extend Sisi’s presidency—to the contrary, there are growing signs of fatigue with his oppressive rule. Second, the constitutional changes would hand Sisi direct control over the judiciary’s top appointments and even its budget. That would destroy the last shreds of independence in a judicial system that, although much weakened in recent years, still contains a few brave judges willing to push for the rule of law. Finally, the amendments would grant the Egyptian Armed Forces the prerogative to intervene in domestic politics to “maintain the constitution and democracy” and “safeguard the basic components of the state.”At first blush, such a clause might seem to bolster the military’s ability to constrain the president. But because Sisi—using economic perks, intimidation, and firings—appears to haveconsolidated control over the armed forcesin the last year, the amendment would actually build apraetorian guard that is constitutionally empowered to defend Sisi against any and all dissent.Sisi sees himself as a divinely ordained leader, Egypt’s only savior, who requires near-totalitarian control to prevent state collapse. To be sure, even without the constitutional changes, Sisi already has vast authority through a slew of laws enacted since 2013. But he sees himself as a divinely ordained leader, Egypt’s only savior, who requires near-totalitarian control to prevent state collapse. By enshrining his overwhelming dominancein Egypt’s paramount governing document, Sisi wants to make successful legal or political challenges to his rule all but impossible—even as his dictatorship maintains a patina of constitutional legitimacy before credulous Western audiences. For Sisi, the timing of these amendments is particularly important. Most likely, he wants to lock in his new powers before ordering additional painful economic reforms, such as another currency devaluation and more subsidy cuts, later this year. Such measures will deepen economic hardship for an already struggling population—and compound discontent with his regime. Sisimay also want to make his move while the United States is amenable. He particularly wants to secure a full-throated endorsement from his most important champion, U.S. President Donald Trump, while the U.S. leader is still in office.Those familiar with Egypt’s modern history of nearly uninterrupted authoritarianism may ask how much these latest amendmentseven matter. But the new constitutional changes do signal something troubling. They would mark a crucial step in the institutionalization of Sisi’s new political system—one that is closer to totalitarianism than Mubarak’s ever was.

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