Egyptians have begun voting in a referendum on constitutional changes that could extend President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's rule until 2030. The proposed amendments have been blasted by the opposition.
Egyptians started to vote on Saturday in a three-day nationwide referendum on constitutional amendments that would allow President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to stay in office until 2030.
The amendments would allow presidents to serve two six-year terms, with an exception to allow el-Sissi to serve a third term. If they are passed, el-Sissi's current second term would be extended from four years to six and he would be permitted to stand for reelection in 2024.
Expat Egyptians already voted on Friday at their country's diplomatic missions abroad.
The amendments were overwhelmingly approved on Tuesday by the Egyptian parliament, which is heavily loaded with el-Sissi supporters.
Egyptian officials took to the country's public broadcasters to urge people to come out to vote amid fears that low turnout will weaken the legitimacy of the iniative.
Opposition parties have slammed the proposed changes, describing them as a step back toward authoritarianism following a pro-democracy uprising eight years ago that saw the ouster of long-time strongman Hosni Mubarak.
The government says the proposed amendments will bolster Egypt's stability in the face of an ever-present terrorist threat.
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, his 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.
tj/jm (AP, AFP)