Tuesday, September 17, 2019 | ePaper

Egyptians vote in referendum to extend Sisi's rule

  • Print


A voter casts her ballot on constitutional amendments during the first day of three-day voting at a polling station in Cairo, Egypt on Saturday.

AFP, Cairo :
Egyptians start voting Saturday in a referendum that aims to cement the rule of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former coup leader presenting himself as a rock of stability in a turbulent region.
Despite protests from rights groups, the three-day plebiscite is expected to approve sweeping constitutional changes that will extend Sisi's term until at least 2024 in the Arab world's largest state.
Beyond that, the amendments would allow Sisi, 64, to run for another six-year term while boosting his control over the judiciary and giving the military even greater influence in political life.
The referendum bucks the trend of the region's mini-Arab Spring, in which mass pro-democracy protests this month swept away veteran presidents in Algeria and Sudan.
Sisi made his grab for power in the turbulent years after the original Arab Spring protests of 2011 toppled long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak, who was followed in office by Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. Sisi overthrew Morsi in 2013 and the following year won his first term as president. He was re-elected in March 2018 with more than 97 percent of the vote after standing virtually unopposed.
International observers slammed both elections while Sisi's government has been widely criticised for sweeping repression of its opponents - both Islamists and secular groups.
Human Rights Watch charged the constitutional amendments aim to strengthen Sisi's "authoritarian rule", while Amnesty said that parliament, having already backed the changes, had shown a "complete disregard for human rights".
For the past few weeks, Egypt's streets have been awash in banners and billboards urging citizens to "do the right thing" and vote "Yes", while popular folk singers have also exhorted voters to go to the ballot box.
A muted "No" campaign mounted from the diaspora and online has been thoroughly muzzled as authorities have blocked over 30,000 internet domains.
Despite the deep concerns of rights groups, Sisi has earned the support of many Egyptians and some Western powers by presenting himself as a bulwark against Islamist militancy and turmoil at a time when fighting again rages in neighbouring Libya.
Many voters, such as retired banker Ramez Raouf, view Sisi as a champion of stability.
"Look, I am against a few of the changes such as extending the president's terms … but I am still going to vote 'yes' anyway," Raouf, 63, told AFP.
When asked why, he said "because the military will protect the civilian nature of the state, and that's important to me".
Parliament has already voted overwhelmingly this week to approve the changes, including extending presidential terms from four to six years.
The referendum also proposes other changes to the five-year-old constitution, among them the creation of a second parliamentary chamber and a quota ensuring at least 25 percent of MPs are women.
Think-tank the Soufan Center said the main effect of the referendum would be to "solidify Sisi's grip on the Egyptian political regime" in a country that "has become even more autocratic than it was under Mubarak".

More News For this Category

No breakthrough in Brexit talks

No breakthrough in Brexit talks

AFP, Luxembourg :British Prime Minister Boris Johnson failed to convince EU leaders on Monday he has a serious plan for a Brexit deal, then ducked out of a planned news

Swine fever hits South Korea

Swine fever hits South Korea

AFP, Seoul :South Korea on Tuesday reported its first cases of African swine fever, becoming the latest country hit by the disease that has killed pigs from China to North

Trump rages as NY Times clarifies its Kavanaugh story

Trump rages as NY Times clarifies its Kavanaugh story

US President Donald Trump blasted The New York Times Monday after it updated a story detailing a previously unreported accusation of sexual misconduct by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to

Poor countries will need to increase carbon footprint to address hunger: Study

Poor countries will need to increase carbon footprint to address hunger: Study

Achieving a nutritious diet with adequate calories in developing countries will require a substantial increase in greenhouse gas emissions and water use, scientists reported Monday, calling on high-income countries to

Iran supreme leader rules out negotiations with US

AFP, Tehran :Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday ruled out negotiations with the US, as tensions mount between the arch-foes after Washington blamed Tehran for attacks on Saudi

News In Brief

New Zealand PM to meet Trump for first formal talks Reuters, Wellington New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday she plans to meet with US President Donald Trump

Johnson the Brexit ‘Hulk’ finally meets EU's Juncker

Johnson the Brexit ‘Hulk’ finally meets EU's Juncker

AFP  :British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker for talks Monday insisting a Brexit deal is possible, despite deep scepticism from European capitals with just six weeks

Faster pace of climate change is 'scary', former chief scientist says

Faster pace of climate change is 'scary', former chief scientist says

Extreme events linked to climate change, such as the heatwave in Europe this year, are occurring sooner than expected, an ex-chief scientist says.Prof Sir David King says he's been scared

Netanyahu, Gantz spur supporters on eve of tense Israeli polls

AFP :Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main opponent Benny Gantz sought to galvanise supporters Monday on the eve of a tense election with the political fate of the

Trump rebuffs Kavanaugh impeachment calls after new sexual misconduct report

Reuters :United States President Donald Trump rejected Democrats' calls for impeaching Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on Sunday after a new report involving sexual misconduct allegations, encouraging the latter to