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Egyptians vote on referendum extending el-Sissi’s rule

Mr el-Sissi came to power in 2014 and was re-elected for a second four-year term last year.

People walk past a banner supporting proposed amendments to the Egyptian constitution (Amr Nabil/AP)
People walk past a banner supporting proposed amendments to the Egyptian constitution (Amr Nabil/AP)

Egyptians are being asked to vote on constitutional amendments that would allow President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to stay in power until 2030.

The three-day voting period for the nationwide referendum started at 9am local time on Saturday on proposed changes that would also further enshrine the military’s role in politics.

Parliament, packed with supporters of Mr el-Sissi, overwhelmingly approved the amendments on Tuesday.

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A policeman checks a voter identity card (Amr Nabil/AP)

Opposition parties have called on voters to reject the changes, seen by critics as a step backwards to authoritarianism eight years after a pro-democracy uprising.

The vote comes amid an unprecedented crackdown by authorities on dissent since the military ousted an elected but divisive president in 2013.

Mr el-Sissi came to power in 2014 and was re-elected for a second four-year term last year.

Two international rights groups, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists, urged the Egyptian government to withdraw the amendments.

Human Rights Watch said the amendments consolidate authoritarian rule. It argued that a free and fair vote would be impossible in what the group described as a relentless crackdown on fundamental freedoms.

The Civil Democratic Movement, a coalition of liberal and left-leaning parties, has urged people to participate in the referendum by voting “No”.

The coalition said it used social media to spread its message, noting that it was banned from hanging banners in the streets to call on voters to reject the amendments.

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 an article specific to Mr el-Sissi 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.

The amendments declare the military the “guardian and protector” of the Egyptian state, democracy and the constitution, while also granting military courts wider jurisdiction in trying civilians.

PA

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