Final day of Egyptian referendum to extend El-Sisi’s rule

Egyptian security forces stand guard outside a polling station in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, where locals were voting in a referendum on constitutional amendments on the second day of a three-day poll, on April 21, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 22 April 2019
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Final day of Egyptian referendum to extend El-Sisi’s rule

  • El-Sisi is widely expected to win backing for the proposed amendments
  • The sweeping changes would extend his current term until 2024 and would also give him the right to stand for another six-year term

CAIRO: Egyptians voted for a third and final day Monday on constitutional changes that could keep President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in power until 2030, amid reports of people actively being encouraged to go the polls.
El-Sisi, who become president in 2014 and was re-elected in 2018 after eliminating all serious political competitors, is widely expected to win backing for the proposed amendments.
The sweeping changes would extend his current term until 2024 and would also give him the right to stand for another six-year term.
Other controversial amendments on the ballot include boosting his control over the judiciary and giving the military even greater influence in Egyptian political life.
AFP correspondents saw pro-El-Sisi volunteers handing out boxed meals at several polling stations in Cairo to voters after they had cast their ballots.
The parcels contained staples such as oil, rice, pasta and sugar.
Human Rights Watch has criticized the “grossly unfree, rights-abusive environment” of the vote, where the ‘No’ campaign has been effectively muzzled.
Ahmed Badawy, an engineer and youth activist with two political parties, wrote on Twitter on Sunday that he had been arrested, using the widely used hashtag “Go down, say No.”
He posted a picture of himself earlier holding a red placard in an upmarket suburb of Cairo with the text “No, to the constitutional changes.”
“He didn’t commit any crimes. He was expressing his views in a peaceful manner,” Badawy’s lawyer Mohamed Al-Baqer told AFP.
Badawy is detained in a police station but the family have received no official notification from the authorities, Baqer said.
In Imbaba, a working-class suburb hugging the Nile, an eyewitness on Monday told AFP of seeing street vendors being forcefully loaded onto buses to go vote.
On the first day of the referendum, some voters told AFP their employers had encouraged them to vote “Yes” and transported them to polling stations in company buses.
In their initial report, an international observer team said “there were no hurdles to voting.”
Egypt’s state-affiliated foreign media body on Sunday denounced instances of critical international coverage.
The referendum also proposes other changes to the five-year-old constitution, including creating a second parliamentary chamber and a quota ensuring at least 25 percent of lawmakers are women.
The final results will be announced on April 27.


Turkey launches air strike on Iraqi Kurdistan after killing of diplomat

Updated 19 July 2019
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Turkey launches air strike on Iraqi Kurdistan after killing of diplomat

  • Turkish vice consul to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region was shot dead Wednesday in the local capital Irbil
  • Turkish separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is suspected to be involved in the killing

ANKARA: Turkey on Thursday launched an air attack on Iraqi Kurdistan in response to the killing of a Turkish diplomat in the region, the country’s defense minister said.
The Turkish vice consul to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region was shot dead Wednesday in the local capital Irbil. Police sources said two other people were also killed.
There was no claim of responsibility for the shooting, but many Iraqi experts have pointed to the probability that the Turkish separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara considers a terrorist group, was behind the attack.
“Following the evil attack in Irbil, we have launched the most comprehensive air operation on Qandil and dealt a heavy blow to the (PKK) terror organization,” defense minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement.
Targets such as “armaments positions, lodgings, shelters and caves belonging to terrorists” were destroyed.
“Our fight against terror will continue with increasing determination until the last terrorist is neutralized and the blood of our martyrs will be avenged,” he added.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which now leads the regional government, enjoys good political and trade relations with Turkey.
But Turkey has been conducting a ground offensive and bombing campaign since May in the mountainous northern region to root out the PKK which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
Earlier this month, the PKK announced that one of those raids killed senior PKK leader Diyar Gharib Mohammed along with two other fighters.
A spokesman for the PKK’s armed branch denied the group was involved in Wednesday’s shooting.