Egypt holds a three-day referendum from Saturday on constitutional amendments that could allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to stay in office until 2030.
What are the key changes?
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 percent.
Who is behind the amendments?
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 favor 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.
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.
Opposition to the amendments
The legislative committee acknowledged some opposition to the amendments from members of the judiciary and two non-governmental organizations.
Just 22 members of parliament voted against the amendments.
Egyptians abroad start voting on Friday, while the vote inside Egypt begins on Saturday, meaning Egyptians have less than four days to read and discuss the changes following their approval by parliament.
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.