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

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.


Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

Updated 28 May 2020

Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP is working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties

ANKARA: Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is looking at ways to change electoral laws in order to block challenges to power from two new breakaway political parties.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP and its nationalist coalition partner the MHP are working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties — a move that has fueled rumors of an imminent snap election in the country.

Under Turkish election rules, political parties must settle their organization procedures in at least half of the nation’s cities and hold their first convention six months ahead of an election date.

Any political party with 20 lawmakers in Turkey’s parliament is entitled to take part in elections and be eligible for financial aid from the treasury for the electoral process.

The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has hinted at the possibility of transferring some CHP lawmakers to the newly founded parties to secure their participation in elections.

Turkey’s ex-premier, Ahmet Davutoglu, and the country’s former economy czar, Ali Babacan, both longtime allies of Erdogan, recently left the AKP to establish their own opposition groups, and have come under pressure from the AKP and MHP to leave their parties out of the race.

Babacan has been critical of Erdogan’s move away from a parliamentary system of governance in Turkey to one providing the president with wide-ranging powers without any strong checks and balances.

“The AKP is abolishing what it built with its own hands. The reputation and the economy of the country is in ruins. The number of competent people has declined in the ruling party. Decisions are being taken without consultations and inside a family,” Babacan said in a recent interview.

He also claimed that AKP officials were competing against each other for personal financial gain.

Babacan, a founding member of the AKP, was highly respected among foreign investors during his time running the economy. He resigned from the party last year over “deep differences” to set up his DEVA grouping on March 9 with a diverse team of former AKP officials and liberal figures.

Berk Esen, a political analyst from Ankara’s Bilkent University, believes Babacan’s recent statements have angered Erdogan.

“As a technocrat, Babacan gains respect from secular circles as well as the international community, which Erdogan clearly lacks. Despite being in office for 13 years, Babacan has not been tainted by corruption allegations and is known as the chief architect of Turkey’s rapid economic growth during the AKP’s first two terms,” he told Arab News.

“The legislation that the AKP-MHP coalition is working on may prevent deputy transfer only in case early elections are scheduled for the fall. Otherwise, the newly established parties will most likely build their organizations across the country and become viable for elections by summer, if not the spring of 2021.”

If Davutoglu and Babacan were successful in capturing disillusioned voters, they could prevent the ruling coalition getting the 51 percent of votes needed to secure a parliamentary majority.