Egyptians have begun voting in a three-day national referendum on constitutional amendments that would extend President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi’s rule until 2030.
Voting began on Saturday with state television showing images of Sisi casting his ballot at a polling station in the eastern suburb of Heliopolis.
The voting is being held amid the heightened presence of troops and security forces across the country.
Egypt’s parliament, packed with Sisi supporters, voted on Tuesday in favor of the constitutional changes. The changes include giving the military greater influence in political life as well as granting Sisi more control over the judiciary, with powers to appoint the prosecutor general and all high level judges.
Egypt’s parliament has approved amendments to the constitution that could keep President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in power until 2030.
The referendum is expected to approve sweeping constitutional changes, polls suggested.
The new amendments will extend the presidential term from four to six years, and the president can only be re-elected once.
But Sisi will be treated differently. His current term will be extended to six years, and he will be allowed to run for a third term as an exception.
He was originally meant to leave power in 2022 after his second term expires.
Human rights groups, including 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.”
He argued that the North African country will go back to “square one, the same autocratic rule it experienced before the 2011 revolution.”
“This ends the hopes of millions of Egyptians who took to the streets in January 2011, wishing to have a rotation of power and a president who can be held accountable,” he said. He was referring to the 2011 uprising that toppled 30 year rule of former president Hosni Mubarak.
Sisi came to power in June 2014, one year after he led the military to oust the first democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi in a coup.
He was re-elected in March 2018 with more than 97 percent of the vote, after standing virtually unopposed.
Human rights groups have regularly criticized Sisi’s government for cracking down on opposition activists and supporters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, which has been banned in the country.
By Africafrique and agencies