Egyptians vote in referendum with only one obvious choice

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Egyptians vote in referendum with only one obvious choice

Deutsche Welle

Egyptians vote in referendum with only one obvious choice
Egyptians vote in referendum with only one obvious choice. picture-alliance/ZUMAPRESS/Le Pictorium Agency/C. Sharrock
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Banners proclaiming support for President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi filled the streets and nationalist pop music blared from speakers as Egyptians went to the polls on Saturday to vote on sweeping constitutional changes that could allow el-Sissi to rule until 2030.

The proposed amendments, overwhelmingly approved by Egypt’s parliament in a first step on Tuesday, would extend presidential term limits from four to six years.

A provisional article also passed Tuesday included an extension of the mandate that el-Sissi won with 97.8% of the vote last year and would allow the president to run for a third term in office in 2024, despite a two-term consecutive limit. The provision, drafted especially for el-Sissi, will help “lead to stability,” according to Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal.

‘Do the right thing’

“I’m here to do the right thing,” said Heba Reda, 30, as she stood in front of a polling station in downtown Cairo on Saturday, the first of three days of voting. She told DW that she hadn’t read the proposed amendments before voting yes.

The sweeping reforms will also increase the role of the Egyptian military, now constitutionally tasked with “safeguarding the constitution and democracy,” for the first time in its history. The changes could also permit el-Sissi to appoint heads of the judiciary.

“These changes are right,” said Reda, when asked why she voted yes.

The amendments also include sweeteners, such as the creation of a second house of parliament, the role of vice president and a 25% quota for female representation, although even this feature sometimes proved controversial during debates ahead of the vote. Yet Egyptian lawmakers still voted to approve the changes by 531 votes out of 596, triggering the referendum.

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