Skip to main content

Egypt gears up for referendum

Egypt’s House of Representatives will hold a final vote on the constitutional amendments April 16, before Egyptians at home and abroad vote in a referendum.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi speaks at his swearing-in of the second presidential term, at a ceremony, at the House of Representatives in Cairo, Egypt, June 2, 2018 in this handout picture courtesy of the Egyptian Presidency. The Egyptian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY - RC1A0126D280

CAIRO — Egyptians will vote in late April in a referendum on the constitutional amendments that the House of Representatives have been considering. Wide political support was given to these amendments during the discussions "under the dome," as Egyptians call the parliament building, where the final vote is scheduled for April 16-17.

Al-Monitor learnt from multiple parliamentary and partisan sources that the election of a 300-member Senate, which would be reinstated under the amendments, will be held before the end of 2019, most likely in the last quarter of the year.

The sources, who declined to be named, said it was decided that 100 members of the Senate would be appointed by the president, while the other 200 would be elected according to a mechanism that will be specified in the electoral law. They revealed that the head of the parliamentary Legislative Committee, Bahaa Abou Chaka, would most likely be appointed to chair the Senate.

Egyptians living abroad will cast their vote on April 19-21, and the nationwide referendum will be held on April 22-24.

On March 24, the House of Representatives released a statement indicating that the constitutional amendments procedures — hearings and final vote — “are more likely to be completed by mid-April, after which the national Elections Commission should call upon the electorate to vote in the referendum, in case the required parliamentary majority voted in favor [of the amendments]."

Article 226 of the constitution stipulates that a two-third majority is required in parliament before the amendments are referred to a public vote.

The constitutional amendments that the Egypt Support Coalition put forward Feb. 3 seek to extend the presidential term from four to six years, provided that the president does not remain in office for more than two terms in a row. They also include a transitional text allowing current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to run for two additional consecutive terms. On Feb. 14, 485 parliamentarians voted in favor of these amendments in the initial vote in parliament.

Political parties, especially the Nation’s Future Party, organized rallies to introduce the amendments to the public and urge voters to vote yes in the referendum, focusing on Articles 243 and 244 that provide for parliament quotas for women, youths, people with disabilities and peasants. The amendments to the electoral law will specify the percentages of this representation.

Also, fairs where commodities are sold at lower prices were held, paving the way for the people to approve of the amendments.

Under the amendments, Articles 243 and 244 stipulate that the state shall ensure an adequate representation in the House of Representatives of peasants, workers, youths, Christians, people with disabilities and Egyptians living abroad, as the anticipated law specifies.

Al-Monitor learnt that the parties allocated huge sums to the rallies, and that Sisi, who is expected to run in the 2020 presidential elections, made a number of decisions, which he announced on March 30, serving as financial incentives to prompt the people to vote for him in the two terms, according to parliamentary sources.

Speaking at a March 30 Mother's Day event organized by the National Council for Women, Sisi said that starting July 1, the minimum wage for public employees will increase from 1,200 Egyptian pounds ($69) to 2,000 pounds ($115) a month. He added that the minimum pension would be increased to 900 pounds ($52) a month. In addition, pension arrears would be paid, which is the subject of a judicial dispute between pensioners and the government.

Commenting on the political parties’ efforts to mobilize the masses, official spokesman for the Wafd Party Yasser al-Hudaibi told Al-Monitor that the party will conduct an internal vote on its stance toward the amendments, adding that should its General Assembly agree, popular rallies will be held to encourage partisans to vote yes. Of note, the Wafd Party announced being in favor of the amendments during the Legislative Committee’s hearing in parliament.

Although the majority of parliament members agreed on the amendments during the discussions, they were keen to emphasize in their official statements and remarks that it is up to the people to decide on the amendments.

On April 4, Youm7 reported Al-Sayyed Al-Sherif, parliament's first deputy speaker, as saying in an official statement that “the amendments are only considered final once approved by the people who are the ultimate decision-makers.” He added, “The community dialogue sessions in parliament have been an opportunity for all social segments to freely express their opinions regarding the amendments and to listen to the different opinions.”

The Ministry of Manpower and Immigration launched a campaign April 4, dubbed “Know … Participate … Even abroad,” to answer the questions of Egyptians living abroad on the constitutional amendments and to raise awareness of the importance of a large voter turnout in this constitutional milestone.

Shourouk News reported Minister of Immigration and Egyptian Expatriates Affairs Nabila Makram as saying in an official statement April 4, “The campaign seeks to open a direct communication channel on the amendments with Egyptians living abroad and to answer their questions in this regard. The campaign aims to raise awareness of everything related to the proposed amendments among Egyptians living abroad.”

She added, “It is a national and constitutional right for them to express their opinion and vote in the referendum.”

Voters are expected to support the amendments in the referendum, given the political indications under the dome and the arties’ political and popular activities in the street.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

The Middle East in your inbox Insights in your inbox.

Deepen your knowledge of the Middle East

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial