Abu Dhabi, Dubai: Scores of Egyptians flocked to the Egyptian embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai early on Friday morning to cast their votes for the proposed constitutional changes that could see President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi remain in power until 2030.
Egyptian expatriates will be able to cast their votes at 139 polling stations, located in embassies and consulates across 124 countries until Sunday.
Many of the UAE residents — the third largest Egyptian expatriate community in the world after Saudi Arabia and Kuwait — likened Al Sissi to Charles De Gaulle, a French army officer and statesman who led the French Resistance against Nazi Germany in World War II and was elected President of France, a position he was re-elected to and held until his resignation in 1969.
“President Al Sissi is leading socioeconomic and political reforms – an Egyptian Resistance against terrorist groups. This is like Charles De Gaulle who led the French Resistance against Nazi Germany in World War II,” Hosni Abdul Fattah Abdul Rahman, 51, an electronics technician, said after he cast his vote.
Hikmat Abdul Shafi, 71, a former school principal, said in Egypt, "we -- the millions of Egyptians who took to the streets against the Muslim Brotherhood -- view Sissi as a savior".
“I support him and his many socio-economic reforms that we, Egyptians, are hardly able to keep pace with,” Asmaa Mohammad Ali, 35, a pharmacist, said.
Back in Egypt, the voting will take place on Saturday through Monday.
Egypt’s parliament overwhelmingly passed the constitutional changes on Tuesday. They would extend a president's term in office from four to six years. The changes include a special article specific to Al Sissi to extend his current, second term to six years and allow him to run for another six-year term in 2024.
So, the proposed amendments could allow President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi to stay in office until 2030.
The 2014 constitution has a two-term cap for the head of the state.
The changes can only become a law when they are adopted in the referendum by the majority of the votes cast.
The proposed amendments also include appointing a vice-president or more and allocating 25 per cent of the legislature’s 450 seats for women – a good move but falls short of Egyptian women’s ambitions, according to Abdul Shafi.
The draft also revives the parliament’s upper house, cancelled in the 2014 constitution. The upper house will comprise 180 members, two thirds of them will be elected and the other third appointed by the head of the state.
The current constitution was endorsed a year after Al Sissi led the army’s overthrow of Islamist president Mohammad Mursi, following enormous street protests against his rule.
Al Sissi has been in power since 2014.
Last year, he was re-elected for a second term in office with 97 per cent of votes.