CAIRO (AP) — Egypt will hold Senate elections over two days in August, the chief of the country’s election commission said Saturday, more than a year after the restoration of Parliament’s lower chamber, which was dissolved in 2014.
The body was reconstituted as part of constitutional amendments that also allowed President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi to extend his stay in power, possibly until 2030.
Lasheen Ibrahim, chairman of the National Election Authority, told a televised news conference that Senate elections will be held Aug. 11-12, with runoff elections to take place Sept. 8-9 if necessary. Egyptian expatriates will vote Aug. 9-10 and Sep. 6-7.
Ibrahim said “strict preventive measures” will be taken during the vote because of the coronavirus pandemic.
No gatherings are allowed for political campaigns, which will be mostly limited to social media, he said. Voters should wear face masks and observe social distancing while casting their ballots, he said.
The 300-member Senate was revived as part of constitutional amendments approved in a national referendum in April last year. The Senate had been dropped from Egypt’s constitution in 2014.
The amendments extended a president’s term in office from four to six years and allowed for a maximum of two terms. But they also included an article specific to el-Sissi that extended his current second four-year term to six years and allowed him to run for another six-year term in 2024 — potentially extending his rule until 2030.
El-Sissi, a general turned president, was elected president in 2014 and re-elected in 2018 after all potentially serious challengers were either jailed or pressured to exit the race.
As defense minister in 2013, el-Sissi led a military overthrow of the country’s first freely elected but divisive Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, following massive protests against his one year of rule.
The constitutional changes also allowed the president to appoint top judges and grant military courts wider jurisdiction in trying civilians.
The amendments introduced the position of vice president and enshrined a 25% quota for women in Parliament’s lower, legislative chamber. All had been dropped from Egypt’s constitution after the 2011 revolution.
Critics have blasted the changes as another major step toward an an increasingly authoritarian government perhaps even more severe than that of former President Hosni Mubarak, whose nearly three decades of autocratic rule was ended by a popular uprising in 2011.
Since 2013, Egyptian authorities have jailed thousands of critics, mainly Islamists but also a number of prominent secular activists, including many of those behind the 2011 uprising.