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Egyptian politician threatens 'uprising', calls for referendum on Sisi

Masoum Marzouk called for a "popular conference" in Tahrir Square [Twitter]

Date of publication: 8 August, 2018

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Former diplomat Masoum Marzouk called for a referendum on Sisi's leadership, or otherwise face a popular uprising
An Egyptian politician has called for a referendum on President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's regime.

Masoum Marzouk, a former diplomat, announced a road map this week including the suspension of the constitution and the dissolution of parliament if Egyptians vote against the government.

He says if the government does not respond positively to his initiative, a "popular conference" would be held in Cairo's Tahrir Square — the epicenter of the January 2011 uprising — on August 31.

Sisi was re-elected earlier this year in a vote in which all potentially serious competitors were arrested or pressured into withdrawing. The government has since been ruling with an iron fist, banning unauthorised protests and jailing thousands of people since 2013 in a massive crackdown on dissent.

Such outspoken criticism of the Sisi regime, even from Egypt's politicians, is rare, and Marzouk risks severe repercussions.

The leader of Marzouk's Popular Current party, Hamdeen Sabahi, publicly boycotted this year's election in protest against restrictive electoral laws and the regime's erosion of freedoms.

Somewhat predictably, pro-government media figures and legislators have called for Marzouk to be prosecuted. 

Marzouk's announcement sparked social media debate, with his name trending on Twitter alongside messages in support of the referendum with the hashtag #Sisi_leave, which has been circulating online for several weeks.

The prominent Egyptian writer Alaa al-Aswany tweeted: "My position on Ambassador Masoum's initiative: I support any peaceful and legal way of democratic reform in Egypt. We should salute Ambassador Masoum for his patriotism and courage. Let us all work to make this initiative a success."

The #Sisi_leave hashtag surfaced this summer following the steep price hikes of fuel, water and electricity after the government introduced strict austerity measures designed to overhaul the economy, but have hit poorest Egyptians hardest.

Sisi himself said publicly he was "upset" over the posts, which he said were inappropriate.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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