CAIRO: Egyptian pro-government media urged a “yes” vote on Sunday, as Egyptians voted for a second day on Sunday in a nationwide referendum on proposed constitutional amendments aimed at cementing the rule of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
El-Sisi is widely expected to win backing for changes making it possible for him to stay in power until 2030, boosting his control over the judiciary and giving the military even greater influence in political life.
Egyptian media outlets have carried images of packed voting stations.
In their initial report on the first day of the nationwide electoral process, an international observer team said: “There were no hurdles to voting.”
Polls reopened at 9 a.m. on Sunday. Voting will continue through Monday to allow maximum turnout, which the government hopes will lend the referendum legitimacy.
Yasser Rizq, chairman of the state-owned Al-Akhbar daily and a close confidant of El-Sisi, wrote that the referendum is a direct vote on the president, and that he is expecting a high turnout.
“People are taking part to say ‘Yes’ for El-Sisi to extend his current term until 2024 and allow him to run for another six-year term,” Rizq wrote in his Sunday column.
Abdel Mohsen Salama, the chairman of the Al-Ahram media organization, urged people to vote as an “urgent necessity” in the newspaper’s Sunday edition.
The three-day referendum bucks the trend of North Africa’s renewed uprisings, in which mass pro-democracy protests this month swept away veteran presidents in Algeria and Sudan.
Former Defense Minister El-Sisi took power in 2013 and was elected president in 2014 after leading the army’s overthrow of President Muhammad Mursi.
He was re-elected for another four-year term in 2018 with more than 97 percent of the vote.
The proposed constitutional changes would allow him to extend his current term by two years and to run for another six-year term.
Since El-Sisi took power, rights campaigners have regularly accused his government of abuses including mass trials and torture, as well as a clampdown on opposition and the press.
Human Rights Watch has slammed the proposed changes, saying they would “entrench repression.”
In a statement Saturday, the New York-based watchdog criticized the “grossly unfree, rights-abusive environment” of the vote.
Supporters of the amendments say they will help ensure Egypt’s political stability, security and economic development. Election officials have not released estimates on voter turnout.
The results are expected to be announced on April 27.
Trucks with loudspeakers drove around central Cairo Sunday morning, playing patriotic songs and urging people to vote.
El-Sisi was elected president in 2014, and re-elected last year after all potentially serious challengers were either jailed or pressured to exit the race.