|Date: Apr 24, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Egypt voters approve extending Sisi’s rule|
|CAIRO: Voters in Egypt approved constitutional amendments allowing President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to remain in power until 2030, election officials said Tuesday, a move that critics fear will cement his authoritarian rule eight years after a pro-democracy uprising. Lasheen Ibrahim, the head of Egypt’s National Election Authority, told a news conference the amendments to the 2014 constitution were approved with 88.83 percent voting in favor, with a turnout of 44.33 percent. The nationwide referendum took place over three days, from Saturday through Monday to maximize turnout. Egypt has some 61 million eligible voters.|
In his first public comments on the amendments, Sisi thanked the Egyptian people for voting “Yes.”
“Wonderful scene done by Egyptians who took part in the referendum ... will be written down in our nation’s historical record,” he tweeted minutes after Ibrahim announced the results.
Pro-government media, business people and lawmakers had pushed for a “Yes” vote and a high turnout, while authorities threatened to fine anyone boycotting the referendum.
In general terms, the amendments extend a president’s term in office from four to six years and allow for a maximum of two terms. But they also include a special article specific to Sisi that extends his current second four-year term to six years and allows him to run for another six-year term in 2024 potentially extending his rule until 2030.
Sisi was elected president in 2014 and re-elected last year after all potentially serious challengers were jailed or pressured to exit the race.
Parliament overwhelmingly approved the amendments last week, with only 22 “No” votes and one abstention from 554 lawmakers in attendance.
Opposition parties had urged a “No” vote, but they have little power in Parliament, which is packed with Sisi supporters and overwhelmingly approved the amendments earlier this month. The local media is also dominated by pro-government commentators, and the authorities have blocked hundreds of websites, including many operated by independent media and rights groups.
Two international advocacy groups Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists had urged the Egyptian government to withdraw the amendments, saying they placed the country on a path to more autocratic rule.
Since early April, Cairo had been awash with large posters and banners encouraging people to vote in favor of the changes.
Most of the posters were apparently funded by pro-government parties, businessmen and lawmakers.
In Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, the posters urged people to vote in the referendum.
“Take part, say ... ‘Yes’ for theconstitutional amendments,” one banner near the offices of the pro-government Nation’s Future Party said. Most of the posters were apparently funded by pro-government parties, businessmen and lawmakers.
During the referendum, businesspeople and lawmakers loyal to Sisi offered incentives to voters. They also provided buses to transport people free of charge to polling centers.
Some voters were being handed bags of food staples like oil, rice and sugar after they cast their ballots.