Bashir tells Sudan lawmakers to postpone amendment that would keep him power

By Khalid Abdelaziz

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, facing the biggest popular protests since he came to power 30 years ago, on Friday called on parliament to postpone constitutional amendments that would allow him to seek another term in a 2020 presidential election.

In a televised speech, Bashir also declared a state of emergency for one year and said he would dissolve the central government and state governments.

The anti-government demonstrations, which started on Dec. 19, were triggered by price increases and cash shortages but quickly developed into protests against Bashir’s rule.

Two weeks before protests broke out, a majority of lawmakers backed proposed amendments to the constitution allow Bashir to run for another term. But on Saturday, the parliamentary committee tasked with amending the constitution said it would indefinitely postpone a meeting to draft these changes.

Ahead of Bashir’s speech, security forces fired tear gas to disperse at least 200 of protesters in Khartoum, eyewitnesses said. The Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), the main protest organizer, called for more demonstrations.

Bashir, an Islamist and former army officer, came to power in 1989 after a military coup. He won elections in 2010 and 2015 after changes in the constitution following a peace agreement with southern rebels, who then seceded to form South Sudan.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, writing by Lena Masri, Editing by William Maclean)