Egypt to hold referendum on April 20 - GulfToday

Egypt to hold referendum on April 20

Egypt-NEA

NEA officials prepare to hold a press conference at its headquarters in Cairo on Wednesday. Agence France-Presse

Egypt on Wednesday set a referendum for April 20-22 on sweeping consitutional changes including amendments that could extend President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s rule until 2030.

Head of the National Election Authority (NEA) Lashin Ibrahim told a press conference the vote will “take place inside Egypt” from April 20-22 and start a day earlier at diplomatic missions abroad.

The announcement came after parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the changes extending presidential terms from four to six years.

The amendments would prolong Sisi’s current term to 2024 from 2022 and allow him to then run for another six-year term.

They also include giving the military greater influence in political life, granting Sisi wide control over the judiciary and broadening the jurisdiction of military courts over civilians.

Electoral chief Ibrahim dismissed concerns about the political climate in Egypt, saying that it was “one hundred percent” free and fair.

The vote comes after veteran presidents were ousted both in Algeria and Sudan and amid an escalation of the conflict in Libya.

Sisi has earned the support of some Western powers by setting himself as a key bulwark against terrorism and turmoil in the Middle East.

Under his rule, the authorities have clamped down on militants in a broad crackdown.

To many Egyptians he is viewed as a champion of stability after years of upheaval following the 2011 exit of long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak.

The country has simultaneously been preparing for the referendum as parliament debated on the amendments since the start of April.

Banners and billboards have gone up across the capital Cairo in the past few weeks urging people to take part in the plebiscite.

Many feature slogans implicitly urge people to back the amendments by doing “the right thing,” while others sponsored by the pro-government Nation’s Future party call outright for a “Yes” vote.

Cairo resident Sayed Abdel Fattah Ahmed said that he was in favour of the changes even though he admitted he had not read them thoroughly.

“My view is that these amendments are essential,” the 56-year-old said.

The constitution “is not a holy book, it can be changed based on the situation in the country,” he added.

Agence France-Presse