Egyptians approve reform allowing Sisi to remain president until 2030
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Nearly 90 percent of Egyptians who voted in a constitutional referendum backed amendments that could see President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stay in power until 2030, the election commission announced Tuesday.
Voter turnout was 44.33 percent, the commission chairman said, adding that 88.83 percent of the voters had approved the amendments.
The amendments also bolster the role of the military and expand the president's power over judicial appointments. The constitutional changes were approved by parliament earlier this month.
"These (changes) are effective from now as your constitution," commission Chairman Lasheen Ibrahim said after he announced the result on state TV, adding that more than 23.4 million voters had endorsed the changes in the referendum.
Sisi's supporters say he has stabilised Egypt and needs more time to reform and develop the economy. Critics fear changing the constitution will shrink any remaining space for political competition and debate, paving the way for a long period of one-man rule.
Sisi took to Twitter shortly after the results were announced to thank his fellow citizens "who dazzled the world with their awareness of the challenges facing" Egypt.
Rights groups have criticised the conditions surrounding the rushed vote, including the suppression of those opposing the sweeping changes that consolidate Sisi's power.
Pro-government media, business people and lawmakers had pushed for a "Yes" vote and a high turnout, offering incentives while authorities threatened to fine anyone boycotting the three-day voting.
'Machine of oppression'
A group of opposition figures, who launched an online campaign opposing the amendments that was later blocked in Egypt, cast doubt about the result.
They said that the voting process was undemocratic and left no room for Egyptians to express opposing views.
"Sisi’s machine of oppression has denied the Egyptian people’s right to express their opinions, thus obstructing all possible peaceful ways for the Egyptians to express their rejection," the opposition members said in a statement.
They added that the government had used public money to distribute electoral bribes.
“We do not recognize this outcome, resulting from a sham referendum, and consider it completely null and void, both formally and substantively," they said.
The electoral commission said on Monday afternoon it had not received any formal complaints about any irregularities.
The commission says it has strict measures to ensure a fair and free vote, posting judges at each polling station and using special ink to prevent multiple voting.
The referendum was widely seen as another step toward restoring authoritarian rule eight years after a pro-democracy uprising that toppled autocratic president Hosni Mubarak.
Authorities have waged a wide-scale crackdown on dissent since al-Sisi led the military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)