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Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Egypt votes in favor of amending the constitution

We have a new constitution: Some 88.83% of participating voters cast ballots in favor of amending the constitution, chairman of the National Elections Authority Lashin Ibrahim announced at a press conference yesterday evening. The turnout rate was one of the highest in the past decade, he said, with 44.3% of the 61 mn eligible people turning out to vote. A little over 27.2 mn votes were cast, of which around 3% were spoiled. “These [changes] are effective from now as your constitution,” Ibrahim said, before claiming that Egypt is now “consolidating democracy.”

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi took to Twitter following the announcement, praising Egyptians for “dazzling the world with their awareness of the challenges” facing the country.

What happens now?

  • Presidential terms will be extended to six years with a two-term limit. In practical terms, that means voters next head to the polls to choose a president in 2024. Under a transitional clause, El Sisi will have the option of standing for a third and final term, potentially allowing him to remain in office until 2030.
  • We get a senate: A 180-member upper house of parliament will be reinstated as a senate (replacing the disbanded Shura Council). As was the case with the Shura, one-third of members will be directly appointed by the president. The senate will be responsible for approving government policy and ratifying international treaties.

Other constitutional changes:

  • The return of the office of vice president could see Egypt with one or more VPs;
  • Women are guaranteed 25% of all seats in the House of Representatives;
  • The president will have new powers to appoint judges and the prosecutor general;
  • The army’s position as the protector and guarantor of the state, the constitution and the people is now enshrined.

You can read our full breakdown of the amendments here.

The referendum results are all over the foreign press this morning, with many stories being particularly balanced in their coverage (see: France24, FT and Deutsche Welle). Bloomberg describes the “hyped” referendum campaign as “three days of festivities,” while the New York Times says the amendments are “new muscle” for the president, focusing on the allegations of vote buying and the opposition to the changes. Wire stories from the Associated Press and Reuters have also been picked by the NYT and the Washington Post. You can also find coverage in the Wall Street Journal, Euronews, Voice of America and the Guardian.

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