Egypt to vote on extending Sisi's term on April 20-22

Ballot on proposed constitutional amendments scheduled for the weekend, head of Egypt's election commission announces.

    El-Sisi was re-elected in a 2018 vote boycotted by opponents and denounced by Human Rights Watch as 'neither free nor fair' [File: Pavel Golovkin/AP]
    El-Sisi was re-elected in a 2018 vote boycotted by opponents and denounced by Human Rights Watch as 'neither free nor fair' [File: Pavel Golovkin/AP]

    Egypt will hold a three-day referendum starting on Saturday over proposed constitutional changes that could allow President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to stay in power until 2030.

    The ballot will run between April 20-22 and will also see voters decide on whether an upper parliamentary chamber should be created, Lasheen Ibrahim, the chairman of the National Election Authority, said in a statement on Wednesday.

    The announcement came a day after Egypt's parliament passed the proposed amendments, signing off on potentially extending Sisi's tenure until 2030 by permitting the general-turned-president to extend his current mandate by two years until 2024, and then stand for another six-year term.

    The 596-member assembly is packed with el-Sisi supporters, with 531 of the 554 legislators who attended the vote opting in favour of the constitutional changes.

    But critics have decried the proposals as another step back to authoritarianism, eight years after a pro-democracy uprising put an end to Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule.

    'Contempt for Egyptians' rights'

    Sisi's government has been repeatedly criticised by human rights organisations for alleged repression of political opponents.

    In a statement on Tuesday, Amnesty International said the proposed constitutional amendments would "facilitate the authorities' crackdown on freedom of expression, association and assembly, erode people's rights, and exacerbate the human rights crisis in the country".

    "The decision to put these amendments to the constitution to a public referendum, amid the worst crackdown on freedom of expression and severe restrictions on political parties and independent media, demonstrates the Egyptian government's contempt for the rights of all people in Egypt," said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty's deputy Middle East and North Africa director.

    Sisi himself won power in a 2014 ballot after leading a military coup the year before to depose his democratically elected predecessor, President Mohamed Morsi, of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement. 

    The 64-year-old was re-elected in March 2018 with more than 97 percent of the vote, in a ballot boycotted by large swaths of the country's political opposition after several potential candidates dropped out citing intimidation or were arrested.

    Only one other candidate, himself an ardent Sisi supporter, opposed the incumbent. Mousa Mostafa Mousa had endorsed Sisi for a second term and even organised events to help nominate the former military commander up until a week before the nomination deadline.

    The election commission said last year's vote was held according to the "highest international standards of integrity and transparency", but rights groups including international NGO Human Rights Watch slammed the ballot as neither "free nor fair".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies