Sudan lawmakers back amendment to let Bashir extend term beyond 2020

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. FILE PHOTO | ASHRAF SHAZLY | AFP

Sudan’s long-serving President Omar Bashir is inching closer to another term in office after a majority of lawmakers backed a constitutional amendment to extend term limits.

FILE PHOTO: Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir speaks during a press conference after the oath of the prime minister and first vice president Bakri Hassan Saleh at the palace in Khartoum, Sudan, March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah./File Photo

Under the current law, Bashir is expected to step down in 2020 as he is ineligible to vie for the presidency having served a two term limit set through another constitutional amendment in 2005 took effect.

Parliament speaker Ibrahim Ahmed Omar said he had received a letter signed by a majority of lawmakers backing an amendment that would extend the limit.

“Today I received a memorandum from 33 parties representing 294 deputies to amend the constitution with regard to the number of times the president’s candidacy is allowed,” he told reporters.

“I will abide by the constitutional and legal steps and the regulations necessary to discuss these amendments in parliament for it to take any decision on them,” he added.

Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party announced earlier this year it was nominating Bashir for president in 2020.

“We agreed to amend the articles after we collected 294 deputies’ signatures,” said party head Abdurrahman Mohamed Ali.

Bashir, an Islamist and former army officer, came to power via a military coup.

He won elections in 2010 and 2015 after the constitution was changed following a peace agreement with southern rebels, who later seceded forming South Sudan.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes after being indicted in 2008 over killings and persecution in Sudan’s Darfur province between 2003 and 2008.

The National Congress Party and its allies have an overwhelming majority in parliament. Prominent opposition parties and armed movements boycotted the presidential and legislative elections held in 2015.

Sudan’s opposition says Bashir must go to improve the country’s image abroad and attract crucial investment and aid.