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Egypt parliament approves law restricting soldiers from running for office

Amendments require current and former officers to seek the approval of top military council before running for election
Egypt's president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (L) and parliament speaker Ali Abdel Aal (Reuters/file photo)

Egypt’s parliament has approved amendments to a law that would restrict current and former members of the armed forces from running for office without consent from top army leaders. 

The law comes one year after the passing of constitutional amendments that allow President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a former army general, to stay in office until 2030.

The new amendments to law no. 232 from 1959 will require all current and former officers from all ranks to seek the approval of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) before running for local, parliamentary or presidential elections. 

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Egypt is due to hold elections for a new second parliamentary chamber on 11-12 August, and the House of Representative elections are scheduled for November. 

The new amendments could be an attempt to prevent the rise of future rivals of Sisi from within the army. 

Sisi came to power after ousting his democratically-elected civilian predecessor Mohamed Morsi in a military coup, which he led while serving as minister of defence. 

He became president in 2014 after highly contested elections in which most of the other candidates were arrested or excluded. 

Sisi 'shielding himself'

Since his election, Sisi has embarked on a continuous purge of the army, retiring or arresting officers who were not perceived as allies. 

One of them was Lieutenant General Sami Anan, who was arrested after deciding to run against him during the presidential election in early 2018.

Anan was arrested on the grounds that he violated the law that required him to seek SCAF permission before running. 

Anan was released two years later, but remains under house arrest, according to Egyptian sources who spoke to Middle East Eye on condition of anonymity. 

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A military court also jailed a former soldier in December 2017 for six years for announcing his decision to enter the presidential race as a potential candidate in a video he posted on YouTube.

The new amendments also prohibit officers from publicly divulging information about the army during their service or joining political parties without the permission of SCAF.

The new amendments will be the first attempt to enshrine such bans on members of the armed forces in Egypt’s civil law. Other bans in place were stipulated in military bylaws, said Mahmoud Gamal, a military analyst.

“Sami Anan’s defence had argued that the law banning him from running was not a civil law, now Sisi is attempting to correct the legal loopholes that were used to justify his running for office,” he told MEE.

Gamal added that the new amendments, unlike the ones passed in 2018, are designed to include officers from all ranks, as well as those who left the army. 

“Sisi is shielding himself against all potential future rivals,” he said.