Day 2: Egyptian voters urged to allow El-Sisi rule until 2030

Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, above, was re-elected for a second four-year term last year. (AFP/File)
Updated 21 April 2019
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Day 2: Egyptian voters urged to allow El-Sisi rule until 2030

  • Egyptian officials said the results should be ready in a week after the elections
  • Opposition parties asked voters to refuse the suggested changes

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.


Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

Updated 19 July 2019
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Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

  • Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place
  • The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions

BEIRUT: Retired Lebanese soldiers on Friday came close to clashing with the country’s army when weeks of protests over planned benefit cuts reached boiling point in the capital Beirut.
Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place.
A military source told Arab News that the Lebanese army leadership had decided to block access to Najma Square, in Beirut’s Central District, where Parliament members were sitting.
But former soldiers, joined by the parents of army martyrs and activists from the Sabaa and Communist parties, surrounded the building in nearby streets before attempting to push through barbed wire, concrete and metal barriers erected by the Lebanese army and the Internal Security Forces.
The protesters, waving Lebanese and army flags, got as far as the entrance to Maarad Street, on which Parliament is located, putting them in direct confrontation with the Lebanese troops.
Ten brigades of reinforcements were drafted in to help push back the veterans before protest leaders eased tensions by calling for a retreat to a nearby square to avoid any further clashes.
The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions. Before entering the parliamentary session, Lebanese Minister of Defense Elias Bou Saab said that “misleading the retired soldiers” would be “harmful to the image and demands of the protesters” and called on them to carry out “peaceful demonstrations.” He added that there had been mixed and confused messages regarding benefit cuts.
However, retired Brig. Gen. Georges Nader had vowed that protesters would not back off until the vote on their benefits was dropped.
Discussing the protests in Parliament, Samy Gemayel, president of the Phalange party, objected to the reduction in the army budget, to which Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said: “This has been concluded on the bases of an understanding with the army and the military establishment.”
MP Paula Yacoubian said that “retired soldiers are trying to storm Parliament,” to which Berri said: “Those who want to storm Parliament have not yet been born.”
The row had centered on a controversial article concerning amendments to the country’s income tax act, and Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil insisted on defending it. He said: “It does not cost the retired soldiers, for instance, more than 3,000 Lebanese pounds ($2) per month. This amount rises to 400,000 pounds for brigadiers.” He added: “Which country in the world gives a retiree 85 percent of his salary?”
After a meeting between the minister and Nader in Parliament, the retired brigadier general went out to reassure the veterans that cuts from their salaries in respect of medicine and income tax would be reduced. Less intense protests continued for more than three hours before Parliament approved the relevant article in the budget.
Meanwhile, Berri had started the Parliament session by reading a resignation submitted by Hezbollah MP Nawaf Musawi.