Egyptians abroad begin voting in charter referendum



Egyptians living abroad on Friday began casting their ballot in a referendum on constitutional reforms that could allow current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to rule until 2030.

According to the state-run MENA news agency, Egyptians living abroad will be able to vote until Sunday at the embassies and consulates in the countries where they reside between 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., as per each country's local time.

Some 140 polling stations are distributed across 124 countries. Egyptians can vote using their passports or identity cards, MENA reported.

No polling stations have been made available for Egyptians in Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Libya due to security concerns in these countries, the country's Election Commission said.

The referendum in Egypt will begin on Saturday and continue until Monday and is slated to be a large vote as it is the most populous Arab nation in the world.

Egyptians will be voting for or against a package of constitutional amendments approved by Parliament earlier this week.

The proposed changes include an extension to Al-Sisi's term, potentially allowing him to remain in office until 2030.

The amendments also give the President new authorities to appoint members of the judiciary and would create a second house of Parliament -- the Senate -- with one-third of its members to be appointed by the President, Ahram Online reported.

They also give the military the role of "safeguarding the constitution and democracy and the fundamental makeup of the country and its civil nature".

Those who back the changes say they are important for the stability of a country, hit by years of political turmoil since the 2011 revolution, and to allow the President more time to carry out his economic development plans. 

Critics, however, say the changes consolidate authoritarian rule.

The current Constitution was approved in a 2014 referendum, months after the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. 

It was a correction to an Islamist-backed charter drafted under Morsi, nearly two years after his predecessor Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in a popular uprising. IANS