As part of a “popular” campaign, several social media users have called for 40 million Egyptian citizens to sign a petition that would extend the presidential term of current President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to eight years instead of four.
The campaign has ignited a controversy among political and popular entities that consider it an attempt to overthrow the current Constitution’s principles. The campaign dates back to 2015, when Yasser El-Turkai, the campaign’s founder, launched a Facebook page through which he marketed the idea.
On Saturday, the page, named ”Collecting signatures to extend the presidential term to eight years”, issued a statement in which El-Turkai claimed that the campaign had been launched from Minya governorate and has begun collecting signatures from citizens.
The statement read: “The campaign is continuing its work in Minya to support Al-Sisi to remain in power for eight years instead of four. Citizens will make official authorizations, and these authorizations will be introduced to parliament to open a discussion on the matter.”
El-Turkai added through media statements that the campaign will be extended to include all governorates in Egypt, arguing that four years is not a long enough period for Al-Sisi to be able to build a strong country and end terrorism.
While the campaign promotes itself as supportive of Al-Sisi, its origins paint a different picture. Although the campaign for Al-Sisi began in 2015, its predecessor came earlier. In 2013, the same founder of the Al-Sisi campaign, El-Turkai, created a campaign to support former president Mohamed Morsi’s claim to power following calls for his dismissal that culminated in the 30 June Uprising.
At the time, Al-Ahram labelled El-Turkai as a political activist who was seeking to establish a party called “Al-Wafd Youth for Change”.
The privately–owned news agency ONA published a story that outlined El-Turkai’s previous campaign through which he asked Egyptians to unite as one behind Morsi amidst political division.
“This campaign is an attempt to overthrow the democratic principles that mark the current regime before and after it received power in Egypt; however, if that campaign was established spontaneously we welcome it,” Hassan Nafaa, a political science professor at Cairo University, told Daily News Egypt on Monday.
The current regime should show full respect for the Constitution and democratic principles that were adopted following the 30 June Uprising. Following such campaigns will lead to the collapse of the democratic state that Egyptians sought. It will instead lead to the establishment of an “oppressive” state, he clarified.
In the same context, the official spokesperson of the Free Egyptians Party, Shehab Wagih, supported the aforementioned view, arguing that the campaign is meaningless and aims to create a negative stereotype about the current regime and Al-Sisi.
“I don’t think that this campaign will see success; I considered it a ‘personal initiative’ that does not represent Egyptians,” he said.