The Egyptian people have voted during three days, from 20 to 22 April, in a referendum to approve the constitutional amendments submitted by 155 members of the Parliament and previously approved by this institution.
Concerned by both the content of these amendments and the referendum process itself, SOLIDAR, together with other CSOs (Cairo Institute for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and EuroMedRights) requested a meeting with the Maghreb and Mashreq working group (MaMa) of the European Council last 16 April. The purpose of this encounter was to ask the European Union for a public statement on the ongoing constitutional revision in Egypt.
The CSOs and platforms attending the meeting shared their concerns about the context and the process of this revision. Regarding the content, the amendments will allow president Al-Sisi to extend presidential term from four to six years, and to run for two more terms (he could stay in power until 2034) concentrating further all the authority into his hands and solidifying further his authoritarian rule. The constitutional role of the military will also be extended by establishing it as “protector of the Constitution, its civil nature, the people’s gain and individual freedom”. Lastly, the amendments will eliminate all remnants of judicial independency, terminating the constitutional separation of powers, weakening further the rule of law and assuring impunity for the members in the armed forces.
Concerning the process, the constitutional amendments approval has been taken place during an alarming crackdown on freedom of expression and repression of any form of peaceful opposition. The closure of the public sphere in Egypt allows no space for a real debate and does not meet the minimum conditions for a free and fair democratic consultation on the amendments.
In the rush with which dubious things are done, Egypt hold the referendum from the 20 to 22 April and, as expected, the amendments were largely approved (by 88,3% of voters and 44% turnout). On 24 April the European External Action Service of the EU published a statement on the constitutional amendments in recalling Egypt’s international and regional commitments with respect to the rule of law and an independent judiciary, freedom of assembly and expression, and expecting Egypt to fully adhere to these commitments.
While SOLIDAR is pleased that the EU have had this public reaction, we deeply regret that the Egyptian regime reinforces its dictatorial politic, limiting the already narrow space of freedom, and reaffirming the sad tradition in the region of constitutionally limited presidential terms turning to lifetime mandates. The hopeful changes led by popular and peaceful demonstrations in Algeria and Sudan, shifting (to a certain extent) the leadership from the military forces to the civil forces, are barred in Egypt.
SOLIDAR empathizes with all the human rights and trade union rights defenders and activists that are exposed to harassment and punishments for defending freedom, human rights and rule of law in Egypt.