Longer rule by El-Sissi goes to vote
Egyptians went to the polls Saturday for the first of three days of voting on constitutional amendments that would allow President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to stay in power until 2030 and broaden the military’s role.
Critics have blasted the proposed changes as another major step towards an authoritarian government perhaps even more severe than that of former President Hosni Mubarak, whose nearly three decades of autocratic rule was ended by a popular uprising in 2011.
The nationwide referendum came amid an unprecedented crackdown on dissent in recent years. El-Sissi’s government has arrested thousands of people, most of them Islamists but also prominent secular activists, and rolled back freedoms won eight years ago.
Prominent Egyptian newspaper columnist Abdullah Al Sennawy decried the amendments as a threat to the country’s stability. He said they would increase the government’s grip on power and erode the balance between authorities currently in place.
“Changing the constitution reflects the weakness of the regime. It is a sign that the regime is close to its end, such as what happened in Sudan and Algeria,” he said.
Voting will stretch over a period of three days to allow maximum turnout, which the government is hoping to lend the referendum legitimacy.