Walking across Cairo, you can’t miss the huge banners calling on Egyptians to support constitutional amendments that would keep President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi in power until 2030.
Egyptians began voting on Saturday in a three-day referendum on the proposed changes, a few days after they were approved by a sweeping majority inside parliament.
“Say yes to stability and security,” reads one banner in central Cairo. The new amendments will extend the presidential term from four to six years, and the president can only be re-elected once.
But Mr Sisi is being given special treatment.
Not only will his current term be extended to six years, but he will be allowed to run for a third term as an exception.
The military-backed president, who took office in 2014, was originally meant to leave in 2022 after his second term expires.
“We are rebuilding through these so-called amendments the state of the single ruler,” says Khaled Dawood, a liberal opposition figure. He believes Egypt will go back to “square one, the same autocratic rule it experienced before the 2011 revolution”.
The changes will give President Sisi tight control over the judiciary, with powers to appoint the prosecutor general and all high level judges.
“This ends the hopes of millions of Egyptians who took to the streets in January 2011, wishing to have a rotation of power and a president who can be held accountable,” Mr Khaled adds.
Mr Sisi has not issued any statements regarding the amendments or the referendum.
The speaker of the parliament has made it clear the proposals have been put forward by the majority bloc. But the parliament is full of the president’s loyalists, and it has been repeatedly criticised for being a rubber stamp.
The president’s supporters argue he should remain in power to carry on with his economic reforms.
MP Mohamed Abu Hamed believes it’s the people who have the final say.
He says the amendments will not annul any future elections, adding: “If President Sisi decides to run again, he might be challenged by another candidate who is more appealing to voters.”