Egyptian expats vote as 3-day referendum on statute begins - GulfToday

Egyptian expats vote as 3-day referendum on statute begins

Egypt

Egyptians, living in Kuwait, wave placards before casting their votes at the Egyptian embassy in Kuwait City on Friday. AFP

Egypt’s state news agency said expats have started voting on constitutional amendments that would allow President Abdel-Fatah Al Sisi to stay in power until 2030.

Sharif Al Badawi, Egyptian Ambassador to UAE, said that eligible Egyptians living in UAE lined up outside their diplomatic missions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai to vote on Friday.

Air-conditioned tents with cold water dispenser machines along with other enabling services have been provided to ensure a seamless voting process using a valid Egyptian ID or Passport, he added.

The voting is to last three days, to maximise turnout.

Parliament this week overwhelmingly approved the proposals, which would also bolster the role of the military and expand the president’s power over judicial appointments.

Supporters argue that Sisi has stabilised Egypt and needs more time to complete crucial economic reforms.

Critics say they fear that the changes will further limit the space for dissent after a wide-ranging security crackdown.

An amendment to Article 140 of the constitution extends the presidential term to six years from four.

An outright bar on any president serving more than two terms will change to a bar on serving more than two consecutive terms.

An additional clause extends Sisi’s current term to six years from four currently since his election victory in 2018, and allows him to run for a third term in 2024.

The amendments provide for the creation of a second parliamentary chamber known as the Council of Senators.

It would have 180 members, two-thirds elected by the public and the rest appointed by the president.

Article 200 of the constitution on the role of the military is expanded, giving the military a duty to protect “the constitution and democracy and the fundamental make-up of the country and its civil nature, the gains of the people and the rights and freedoms of individuals.”

The amendments also create the post of vice president, allowing the president to appoint one or more deputies.

They task the president with choosing head judges and the public prosecutor from a pool of senior candidates pre-selected by the judiciary.

They further create a quota setting women’s representation in parliament at a minimum of 25 per cent.

The amendments were initiated by the pro-government parliamentary bloc known as Support Egypt, and according to the parliament’s legislative committee report, 155 members submitted the initial proposal.

On Tuesday, 531 out of 596 members of Egypt’s overwhelmingly pro-Sisi parliament voted in favour of the changes.

Parliament speaker Ali Abdelaal has said that the amendments were a parliamentary initiative and that Sisi may not even choose to run again.

“This suggestion came from the representatives of the people in gratitude for the historic role played by the president,” the legislative committee report said. Proponents of the changes have argued that Sisi, a former army chief, came to power with a huge mandate after mass protests in 2013.

With macro economic indicators improving, they say Sisi deserves more time to build on reforms. The legislative committee report said religious, academic, political and civil society representatives expressed strong overall support for the changes during a consultation period ahead of the parliament’s final vote.

Abdelaal said a wide range of views were given a hearing during the consultation period.

Egyptian officials say that Egyptians from all walks of life were given a chance to debate the amendments, adding that all views were factored into the final proposals. Abdelaal also denied that the amendments prescribe a new role for the military.

He told parliament that the armed forces are the backbone of the country and Egypt is “neither a military or a religious state,” state-run Al Ahram newspaper said.

Election commissioner Lasheen Ibrahim, who announced the dates of the referendum on Wednesday, did not say when the votes will be counted or the results announced. More than a week before parliament’s final vote, posters and banners sprung up across the capital Cairo urging people to “do the right thing” and participate, some calling directly for a “yes” vote.

Lastr week, Sisi raised the country’s minimum wage to 2,000 Egyptian pounds ($116) a month from 1,200 pounds.

Sisi said the raise would apply to all Egyptian workers and added that pensions would rise by 15 per cent, with pensioners receiving a minimum increase of 150 pounds to take the minimum pension to 900 pounds.

Under the measures announced by Sisi, state employees will receive a raise of 7 per cent, or a minimum of 75 pounds, while those not employed in the civil service will receive a 10 per cent raise, also receiving at least 75 pounds.

WAM / Agencies