return of authoritarianism
April 23, 2019

As expected, Egyptians voted in a three-day public referendum to approve constitutional amendments that will likely allow President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi to remain in office until 2030, which many critics fear will cement autocratic rule in the country.

Voter turnout was low — just over 44 percent — but Sisi's amendments were reportedly approved by almost 89 percent. There is skepticism about the legitimacy of the vote, however. The Associated Press reports pro-government media, businesses, and lawmakers offered free rides and food handouts to voters, propaganda was plastered all over Cairo, opposition websites were blocked by the government, and potential boycotters were threatened with fines.

The amendments, which easily passed a parliamentary vote last week, extend presidential terms from four to six years and grant the president power to appoint judges and a new prosecutor. The military, which Sisi used to command, will also reportedly have increased powers, and will be considered "the guardian and protector" of Egypt's democracy and constitution.

Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists reportedly urged the government to withdraw the amendments, per AP. The groups believe they will put Egypt on a path toward even greater authoritarian rule just eight years after a pro-democracy movement overthrew former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Tim O'Donnell

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