Egyptians Vote In Referendum To Extend Sisi’s Rule

Egyptians queue to enter inside a polling station to vote in a referendum on constitutional amendments, at a school in the capital Cairo’s northern neighbourhood of Shubra/ AFP

 

Egyptians were voting Saturday in a referendum that aims to cement the rule of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former coup leader who presents himself as a rock of stability in a turbulent region.

Despite protests from human rights groups, the three-day plebiscite is expected to approve sweeping constitutional changes that will extend Sisi’s rule of the Arab world’s most populous country until at least 2024.

Beyond that, the amendments would allow Sisi, 64, to run for another six-year term while boosting his control over the judiciary and giving the military even greater influence in political life.

Sisi himself was among the first to vote when polls open, casting his ballot in the upmarket Cairo suburb of Heliopolis.

In Shubra, a working-class neighbourhood of the capital, dozens of voters, mostly women carrying their children, queued outside a polling station in the local high school.

Troops, as well as the police, provided security, an AFP photographer reported.

The referendum bucks the trend of the region’s mini-Arab Spring, in which mass pro-democracy protests this month swept away veteran presidents in Algeria and Sudan.

READ ALSOIS Launches Deadliest Attack On Syria Army Since Crisis

Sisi made his grab for power in the turbulent years after the original Arab Spring protests of 2011 toppled long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak, who was followed in office by Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Sisi overthrew Morsi in 2013 and the following year won his first term as president. He was re-elected in March 2018 with more than 97 percent of the vote after standing virtually unopposed.

International observers slammed both elections while Sisi’s government has been widely criticised for sweeping repression of its opponents — both Islamists and secular groups.

Human Rights Watch charged the constitutional amendments aim to strengthen Sisi’s “authoritarian rule”, while Amnesty International said that parliament, having already backed the changes, had shown a “complete disregard for human rights”.

– Grip on regime –
For the past few weeks, Egypt’s streets have been awash with banners and billboards urging citizens to “do the right thing” and vote “Yes”, while popular folk singers have also exhorted voters to go to the ballot box.

A muted “No” campaign mounted from the diaspora and online has been thoroughly muzzled as authorities have blocked over 30,000 internet domains.

Despite the deep concerns of human rights groups, Sisi has earned the support of many Egyptians and some Western powers by presenting himself as a bulwark against Islamist militancy and turmoil at a time when fighting again rages in neighbouring Libya.

Many voters, such as retired banker Ramez Raouf, view Sisi as a champion of stability.

“Look, I am against a few of the changes such as extending the president’s terms… but I am still going to vote ‘yes’ anyway,” Raouf, 63, told AFP.

“Because the military will protect the civilian nature of the state, and that’s important to me,” he said.

Parliament has already voted overwhelmingly this week to approve the changes, including extending presidential terms from four to six years.

The referendum also proposes other changes to the five-year-old constitution, among them the creation of a second parliamentary chamber and a quota ensuring at least 25 percent of lawmakers are women.

Think-tank the Soufan Center said the main effect of the referendum would be to “solidify Sisi’s grip on the Egyptian political regime” in a country that “has become even more autocratic than it was under Mubarak”.

Sisi Hopeful Of Re-election As Egyptians Vote Monday

Egyptians To Vote Monday, Sisi Anticipates Re-election
(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 11, 2017 Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks on during a press conference with his Russian counterpart (unseen) following their talks at the presidential palace in the capital Cairo. Khaled DESOUKI / AFP

 

Egyptians will choose their next president in elections starting Monday, with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi expected to easily secure a second four-year term.

Some 60 million people in Egypt, the most populated Arab country, are registered to vote in three days of polling on March 26, 27, and 28.

They will have the choice between the incumbent and one other candidate: Moussa Mostafa Moussa, a little-known politician who registered right before the close date for applications, saving the election from being a one-horse race.

“Moussa Mostafa Moussa has little chance of winning a significant number of votes. His campaign is weak, many people do not even know he is running, and he is generally little known,” said Mostafa Kamel al-Sayed, a political science professor at Cairo University.

In an interview broadcast on Egyptian television this week, 63-year-old Sisi said the absence of serious opponents is not his doing.

“I wish we had one, or two, or three, or 10 of the best people and you choose however you want,” said Sisi.

– ‘Result known in advance’ –

In the 2014 election, Sisi faced Hamdeen Sabbahi, an established left-wing politician much better known than Moussa. Still, Sisi won 96.9 percent of the vote.

With Sisi’s win effectively guaranteed, the authorities’ concern this year would be turn out to enhance the legitimacy of the vote. Sisi has stressed in his pre-election appearances the importance of voters turning out in large numbers.

In 2014, about 37 percent of voters participated in the two-day election, prompting authorities to add a third day to obtain a final participation rate of 47.5 percent.

It is unlikely this year that even that 37 percent will be achieved, said Sayed.

“The result is known in advance, and this does not encourage Egyptians to go out and vote,” he said.

“And there is no campaigning: The voters are not exposed to and getting familiar with the candidates’ ideas.”

During the campaign, Sisi appeared frequently on television and in newspapers, hailing factories and infrastructure projects built over the last four years.

Egyptian cities, especially Cairo, are flooded with banners featuring photographs of Sisi and messages of support from business owners. Posters vowing support for Moussa, 65, are rarely seen.

Many of the pro-Sisi banners carry praise for the relative calm of recent years, following the turmoil unleashed in the wake of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

But with an economic crisis and gruelling price hikes — and the return of a regime seen as at least as authoritative as that of Mubarak — support for Sisi appears to be slightly in decline.

In his first term, Sisi had promised to restore stability, including in the economy.

In 2016, he launched a three-year economic reform programme, part of a $12 billion International Monetary Fund loan, which included the floating of the pound, leading to a loss of half of its value and causing prices to soar.

– Crackdown on dissent –

But even as inflation spiked, no public displays of protest were witnessed under Sisi, who has led a wide crackdown on dissent since taking office.

Sisi, the fifth president to hail from the military since the monarchy was overthrown in 1952, was elected president a year after leading the military ouster of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, amid mass protests against him.

Morsi, who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood, became Egypt’s first democratically elected president in 2012, in the first vote after Mubarak’s ouster.

But after a year of divisive rule, with many Egyptians concerned about rising Islamist leanings in government, mass protests took place against him across the country, and Sisi, then head of the army, announced his ouster after an ultimatum for Morsi to call early elections.

Hundreds of Morsi’s supporters were killed in the August 2013 dispersal of two protest camps in Cairo, and thousands were arrested — including Morsi himself — and sent to mass trial in procedures condemned by the United Nations.

A year later, a popular Sisi was elected as president, with the initial crackdown on Morsi’s supporters expanded to include liberal and leftist secular activists.

According to Reporters Without Borders, 30 journalists are currently imprisoned in Egypt. Nearly 500 websites are also blocked, while art is subject to rising censorship.

AFP

ITTF Lists Nigeria, Egypt For Youth Olympics Qualifiers

ITTF Lists Nigeria, Egypt For Youth Olympics QualifiersThe International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has confirmed that 11 countries will contend for four slots available for Africa in the 2018 Youth Olympics holding in Argentina.

The countries listed are Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya.

Others include: Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Congo Brazzaville, Congo DR and Madagascar.

The qualifiers for the Olympic Games is expected to take place at the El-Menzah Stadium in Tunis, Tunisia.

Egypt’s duo of Youssef Abdel-Aziz and Marwa Alhodaby are top seeds while Nigeria’s Azeez Solanke and Esther Oribamise trail the Egyptians.

Buhari Condoles With Al-Sisi, Egyptians On EgyptAir Crash

Muhammadu Buhari, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, EgyptAirPresident Muhammadu Buhari has commiserated with his Egypt counterpart and Egyptians on Thursday’s EgyptAir crash which claimed many lives.

Condoling President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on the loss of 66 lives in the crash, President Buhari assured him and the people of Egypt of the sympathy of all Nigerians, as they mourn the passengers and crew of EgyptAir MS804.

He told President Al-Sisi during a phone conversation on Friday evening that the thoughts and prayers of Nigerians were with the families and friends of the bereaved Egyptians and other nationals who are in sorrow as a result of the tragic air crash.

The President prayed that God Almighty would comfort all those who lost their relatives and friends in the crash and grant eternal rest to the souls of those who died.

In his response, President Al-Sisi thanked his Nigeria counterpart for his condolence and sympathy.

President Buhari’s condolence was disclosed in a statement by his Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.

Siasia Invites Balogun For Nigeria vs. Egypt Match

SiasiaCoach Samson Siasia has extended an invitation to FSV Mainz 05 of Germany defender, Leon Balogun, ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against the Pharaohs of Egypt.

The latest invitation brings to 21, the number of overseas–based players called for the games, including US-based Portland Timbers striker, Fanendo Adi, who has expressed delight at getting his first call-up for the Super Eagles.

Coach Siasia has also declared that only those who show guts and grit, and ability to adapt to conditions, would be selected to play against the Pharaohs.

The Super Eagles’ new boss stated that there would be no sentiments or consideration of previous ability as only the training sessions in Kaduna and Alexandria would be used to decide the 18 players on the roll for each game.

“These are two matches that we have to win. There would be no looking at what someone had done in the past, or current form at club level. If you are doing well at your club at the moment and you can’t show ferocious form in training and ability to adapt to the environment, then you would have no place.

“I am excited at the debate that has been generated by the team list. You can never satisfy everyone. The important thing is that we know the players we want for these big games and we have invited them, and we believe in them to deliver.”

The 1994 Africa Cup of Nations gold medallist gave the assurance that he has been speaking with all the players on the list and has received assurance that everyone is ready to give his all in both games.

“We continue to ask for the support of every Nigerian as we count down to the two matches. Our people should believe that we can do it, and we will do it.”

Nigeria host Egypt in Kaduna on Friday, March 25 and visit the Pharaohs in Alexandria on Tuesday, March 29 in two crucial 2017 Cup of Nations qualifiers. Egypt top the Group G table with six points, two more than the Eagles who are in second place.

Siasia Targets Defeat Of Egypt Home And Away

SiasiaSuper Eagles caretaker coach, Samson Siasia, insists his target is to beat Egypt both home and away in the African Cup of Nations Qualifiers later this month.

Coach Siasia, who was in charge of the team between December 2010 and October 2011, maintained that only the best players would be given opportunity in both matches from his 42 man list.

The home-based players are expected to arrive camp on March 6, before the overseas-based pros arrive from March 20.

The Lagos-born 48-year-old had invited 22 home–based professionals and 20 foreign–based players for the qualifying games against the Pharaohs of Egypt.

Siasia, who was named last week as Super Eagles’ Head Coach, passionately appealed to Nigerians, including the media, to support the team and show belief, as the Eagles host the Egyptians in Kaduna on March 25 and play away in Alexandria on March 29.

Egyptian Forces Kill Foreign Tourists In Mexico

egyptianSecurity forces in Egypt have mistakenly killed 12 people, including Mexican tourists, during an anti-terror operation.

The death has been described as unfortunate.

The Interior Ministry confirmed that the tourists were travelling in four vehicles that entered a restricted zone in the Wahat area of the Western Desert.

Ten Mexicans and Egyptians were also injured and are being treated in a local hospital.

Attacks on army and police, mainly in the Sinai Peninsula, have escalated since Islamist President, Mohammed Morsi was ousted in 2013.

Mexico’s President, Enrique Pena Nieto, has condemned the incident and has “demanded an exhaustive investigation by the Egyptian government”.

The Mexican Foreign Ministry confirmed that at least two of its nationals had been killed and it is currently working on confirming the identities of the other victims.

Egyptians Mark First Mass Protest Anniversary

Tahrir Square it was for thousands of Egyptians since yesterday to mark the first anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak with some seeking a new revolt against army rule and others celebrating the changes already achieved.

Egyptians Mark First Mass Protest Anniversary

Egyptians congregated in Tahrir Square late on Tuesday into this morning pitching tents in winter rain and hanging the national flag from buildings.

A year ago today,protesters inspired by an uprising in Tunisia took to the streets in Egypt and the Jan. 25 anniversary has exposed divisions in the Arab world’s most populous country over the pace of democratic change.

Concerned the generals are obstructing reform to protect their interests, the pro-democracy activists behind the “Jan. 25 revolution” plan marches to Tahrir Square to demand the military council that replaced Mubarak hand power to civilians immediately.

But well-organised Islamist parties which dominated Egypt’s most democratic election since army officers overthrew the king in 1952 are among those who oppose a new uprising.

Headed by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the military council has said it will cede power to an elected president by the end of June, thus completing a democratic transition.

Yet pro-democracy activists doubt their intentions, pointing to a surge in military trials and the use of violence against protesters as signs of autocratic ways familiar from the Mubarak era.