Voters offered rides, food in Egypt referendum on el-Sisi

Yasser Rizq, chairman of the state-owned al-Akhbar newspaper and an el-Sisi confidant, portrayed the referendum as a show of support for the general-turned-president.

«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.

Army officers secure a Cairo polling station as people enter to vote on constitutional amendments on Sunday.

Army officers secure a Cairo polling station as people enter to vote on constitutional amendments on Sunday.Credit:AP

Abdel Mohsen Salama, the chairman of the state-owned al-Ahram media organisation, urged people to vote as an «urgent necessity.»

Pro-government business people and lawmakers meanwhile offered incentives to voters.

In Cairo’s neighbourhood of Kit Kat, buses hired by lawmakers transported people free of charge to a polling centre.

In two polling centres in Cairo, some voters were being handed bags of food staples — like oil, rice and sugar — after they cast their ballots. The practice is common in Egypt’s elections and referendums, both before and since 2011.

The National Council for Human Rights, a state-appointed body, also reported people giving food to voters, and said cars with signs advertising political parties could be seen transporting people to voting centres. Trucks with loudspeakers drove around central Cairo on Sunday morning, playing patriotic songs and urging people to vote.

Opposition voices have largely been shut out amid the rush to hold the referendum. Parliament, packed with el-Sisi supporters, overwhelmingly approved the amendments on Tuesday. The local media is dominated by government supporters.

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.

«The situation is backsliding,» said Ahmed Abd Rabou, a visiting assistant professor at the University of Denver. He said Egypt is replicating a «totalitarian» system «where the president can run forever and can stay in power forever.»





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