Voters given food boxes to back constitutional changes that could extend Sisi rule to 2030
'Supporters of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi have claimed victory after almost 90% of Egyptian voters backed sweeping constitutional changes that could result in him ruling until 2030.
Election officials claimed 88.8% of voters had confirmed the changes, with a turnout of 44%. The results overhaul the 2014 constitution: they extend presidential term limits to six years, allowing Sisi to run for re-election in 2024; expand presidential control over the judiciary, and enshrine the military’s role in politics.
While officials from the national election commission (NEC) praised the democratic nature of the vote, the referendum was marred by a carrot-and-stick campaign to drive working-class voters heavily affected by austerity measures to the ballot box.
Egyptian politicians triggered the referendum when 531 out of 596 lawmakers voted in favour of the changes last week.
Sisi renewed his mandate last year with 97.8% of the vote, amid reports of vote-buying in poor neighbourhoods. Outside the polls at the weekend, voters talked of being bussed in from working-class neighbourhoods and bribed with E£150 (£6.70) packs of food to vote.
Photos of food boxes distributed to people who could prove they had voted spread across social media, including some branded with the logo of the pro-government Future of the Nation party.
“I didn’t vote yes to get a bag [of food], but the bag encouraged me to go to the polls,” said one voter in the Shubra district, whose name has been withheld for her safety. She recounted an intricate system whereby a local trader took a photo of her ID card and number for receiving government subsidies 10 days before the vote. She presented this to receive a pink slip outside the polling station, the slip was then stamped by staff inside after she voted, and it was exchanged with a vendor for a bag of basic foodstuffs, such as cooking oil and pasta.
“People are poor and we need anything that can support us,” she said. “A lot of people I know went to the polls in order to get a bag of food, because Ramadan is around the corner and prices are very high these days.”'
Read more: Sisi wins snap Egyptian referendum amid vote-buying claims