A coalition of opposition parties in Egypt has called on voters to reject a proposed constitutional amendment which could allow President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to extend his term until 2030.
The proposed amendment would extend a president’s term from four years to six and allow for a maximum of two terms. There is also an article specific to Sisi that would extend his current second four-year term to six years and allow him to run for another six years, extending his rule to 2030.
The Civil Democratic Movement, a coalition including liberal and left-leaning parties, held a news conference to oppose the proposed amendment describing it as an “assault on democracy”.
Khaled Dawood, an opposition leader and former head of the liberal Dostour, or Constitution Party, told reporters that if the referendum passed, “our dream and hope to have a president who is elected once every two terms have come to an end”.
Dawood further stated:
"Unfortunately, the Egyptian regime is not learning the lessons of 2011 revolution or experiences in Algeria and Sudan”.
Algeria and Sudan had recently faced uprisings which overthrew longtime rulers.
Amnesty International has raised concerns with the proposed amendment stating it 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”.
Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, further stated:
"The decision to put these amendments to the constitution to a public referendum, amid the worst crackdown on freedom of expression and severe restrictions on political parties and independent media, demonstrates the Egyptian government's contempt for the rights of all people in Egypt”.
Hassan Nafaa, a political analyst, similarly stated that this amendment would amount to "legalising dictatorship in the constitution and that will have dangerous repercussions on the political system when all doors for freedom of expression are sealed”.
The three-day referendum was announced less than a day after parliament approved of the proposed amendments. The vast majority of seats in parliament are held by Sisi supporters.
The opposition has complained that they were banned from hanging banners in the streets and have had to rely on social media to reach people.
Sisi initially came to power after a pro-democratic uprising overthrew Hosni Mubarak who ruled for three decades. Mubarak was supported by the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood. In 2014 Sisi led a popular military overthrow of the democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, after protests against his rule.