Egyptian strongman secures 88.83 percent mandate in a referendum rubber stamping constitutional amendments that extend his term and remove term limits.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el Sisi has breezed through a referendum, which extended his term from four years to six, and removed a two-term limit on how long long a head of state can serve.

Sisi won the vote with 88.83 percent of ballots in favour of changing the constitution to allow him to rule longer, according to Egyptian officials.

Human rights groups, media outlets, and Egyptian activists have reported widespread fraud and voter intimidation since Sisi came to power after overthrowing Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in a military coup in July 2013.

Reports preceding the poll said Egyptian police officers were coercing shopkeepers into supporting the referendum.

That track record, combined with the huge margin of the win, has led many to dismiss the vote as a ‘sham’.

Many Egyptians voiced their frustrations on social media, often using biting sarcasm.

“Listen Sisi, if you're going to have sham elections, rule number one is to keep it even a little bit realistic. Like maybe go 55-60 percent. not 97 percent,” wrote one Twitter user, continuing: ”But hey, I'm not the president of a major country (so) really i guess what do I know.”

Others noted that the actual win percentage, 88.83 percent, fell short on the high nineties, Arab autocrats traditionally awarded themselves in elections.

“What a shame that Sisi could not have the courage to give himself 99 percent approval rating instead of the officially declared 89 percent. What people would ever want to be governed by a dictator. What a sham,” said another Twitter user, ‘Gkaram’. 

Besides the one year Morsi was president between 2012 and 2013, since 1952, Egypt has been ruled by autocrats who were former military officers.

One user, going by the name Ramadan, said Sisi’s most recent success followed the same mould as his predecessors.

“The same scenario is run since 1952 for Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak, and today is Sisi’s turn...Fake government, fake policies, and make believe democracy.”

It’s not just at the ballot box where Egypt’s rulers face criticism. The advent of Sisi’s rule has brought about a severe restriction in freedom of speech, flawed trials and executions, as well as the imprisonment of tens of thousands of dissidents.

Egypt has also banned critical media outlets from operating in the country, including Qatar’s Al Jazeera, and has blocked websites, such as Human Rights Watch, and Huffington Post Arabic.

Source: TRT World