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Egyptian voters urged to ‘do the right thing’

April 21, 2019

After the first day of voting, international observers reported there were no hurdles to voting. But the level of the turnout is a key issue.

Ägypten Referendum über längere Amtszeit für Präsident al-Sisi
A woman casts her vote during the referendum at a polling station in Cairo, Egypt (Reuters/M. Abd el Ghany)Image: Reuters/M. Abd el Ghany

Egyptians are being urged by the government to cast their votes on the second day of a referendum that could extend President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's term until 2030.

The proposed constitutional amendments that would extend el-Sissi's hold on power are widely expected to pass. The changes, which would extend presidential term limits from four to six years, increase the role of the Egyptian military, and grant the president more control over the judiciary, were overwhelmingly approved by Egypt's parliament on Tuesday.

Read more: Egyptians vote in referendum with only one obvious choice

By Saturday, the streets of Cairo were filled with banners of support for the president bearing the campaign's motto: "Do the Right” thing, as nationalist pop music blared from loudspeakers. Pro-government media outlets portrayed packed polling stations.

Expat Egyptians already voted on Friday at their country's diplomatic missions abroad.

Voting in the referendum continues until Monday to maximize voter turnout, which the government hopes will lend it legitimacy.

'No hurdles to voting'

Some voters were encouraged by their employers to vote, and others reported receiving food coupons from unidentified sources.

The initial report by an international team of observers on the nationwide electoral process said "there were no hurdles to voting."

Those in favor say the proposed amendments will safeguard the country's political stability and economic development.

Public support for a no vote was difficult to find, after opposition campaigners said they were threatened and even faced detention, reported DW correspondent Ruth Michaelson on Saturday. Ten members of the liberal Dostour, or Constitution party, were arrested for voicing their dissent.

The opposition Civil Democratic Movement, a coalition of liberal and left-leaning parties set up to oppose the changes, said it had been prevented from publicly campaigning and was not granted a permit to protest in front of the Egyptian parliament.

Read more: Opinion: EU must hold Egypt accountable on human rights

El-Sissi came to power in 2013 after leading a military overthrow of the country's first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist. Since then, the administration has carried out a draconian crackdown on dissent, jailing thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization to which Morsi belongs, along with prominent secular activists.

Egypt ranks 163rd out of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index. Human Rights Watch slammed the proposed constitutional changes, saying in a statement that the amendments "will undermine the Egyptian judiciary's dwindling independence and expand the military's power to intervene in political life.” 

Results of the referendum are to be announced on Saturday.

mc/jm (AFP, AP)

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