Egypt voters approve referendum extending president's rule

Egypt voters approve referendum extending president's rule

CAIRO- The Associated Press
Egypt voters approve referendum extending presidents rule

Voters in Egypt approved constitutional amendments allowing President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to remain in power until 2030, election officials said on April 23, a move that critics fear will cement his authoritarian rule eight years after a pro-democracy uprising.

El-Sissi led the military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president amid mass protests against his rule in 2013 and has since presided over an unprecedented crackdown on dissent. Thousands of people, including many pro-democracy activists, have been arrested by authorities. Freedoms won in 2011, when mass protests ended President Hosni Mubarak's nearly three-decade rule, have been rolled back.

Lasheen Ibrahim, the head of Egypt's National Election Authority, told a news conference the amendments to the 2014 constitution were approved with 88.83% voting in favor, with a turnout of 44.33%. The nationwide referendum took place over three days, from Saturday through Monday to maximize turnout. Egypt has some 61 million eligible voters.

In his first public comments on the amendments, el-Sissi thanked the Egyptian people for voting.

"Wonderful scene done by Egyptians who took part in the referendum... will be written down in our nation's historical record," he tweeted minutes after Ibrahim announced the results.

Pro-government media, business people and lawmakers had pushed for a "Yes" vote and a high turnout, with many offering free rides and food handouts to voters, while authorities threatened to fine anyone boycotting the three-day referendum.

Egypt, Sisi, Referendum