Egyptians vote in referendum to extend Sisi's rule

280 views
An Egyptian soldier helps an elderly woman to a polling station as she arrives to vote in a referendum on constitutional amendments, at a school in the capital Cairo's northern neighborhood of Shubra, on the first day of a three-day poll, on Saturday. — AFP

Cairo — Egyptians voted Saturday in a referendum that aims to cement the rule of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Voters were being asked to back amendments to the constitution to 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 three-day referendum bucks the trend of North Africa’s mini-Arab Spring.

In Shubra, a working-class neighborhood of the capital, dozens of voters, mostly women carrying their children, queued outside a polling station in the local high school.

In Cairo, troops and police were deployed in numbers although the interior ministry denied to give any nationwide figures.

Sisi has argued that he needs longer to complete the job of restoring security and stability after the turmoil that followed the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in the Arab Spring of 2011.

Out on the streets, his supporters waved flags bearing their campaign motto: “Do the Right,” as they pressed passers-by to turn out and vote ‘Yes’.

At a polling station in Manyal, a Cairo suburb overlooking the Nile, Mohamed Abdel Salam, 45, told AFP he was voting enthusiastically in support of the changes.

“I don’t care about the presidential terms,” he said.

“Sisi could stay forever as long as he’s doing his job... and he has already done a lot”.

For the past few weeks, Egypt’s streets have been awash with banners and billboards urging citizens to “Do the right thing” and vote “Yes”, while popular folk singers have exhorted voters to go to the polls.

A DJ blared loud patriotic songs extolling the virtues of Egypt under Sisi’s leadership, including a new song called “I adore Egypt” by iconic Lebanese diva Nancy Ajram.

Earlier in the week, parliament overwhelmingly endorsed the constitutional changes, which also include the creation of a second parliamentary chamber and a quota ensuring at least 25 percent of lawmakers are women. — AFP


280 views