As voters cast their ballots in a referendum that could see Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al Sisi stay in power until 2030, activists posted photos on social media showing white boxes with groceries being handed out to people after they voted.

Pedestrians walk in front of a banner of the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi before the upcoming referendum on constitutional amendments in Cairo, Egypt April 16, 2019.
Pedestrians walk in front of a banner of the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi before the upcoming referendum on constitutional amendments in Cairo, Egypt April 16, 2019. (Reuters)

Egyptians voted for a third and final day on Monday on constitutional changes that could keep President Abdel Fattah al Sisi in power until 2030, amid reports of people actively being encouraged to go to the polls.

Sisi, who became president in 2014 and was re-elected in 2018 after eliminating all serious political competitors, is widely expected to win backing for the proposed amendments.

The sweeping changes would extend his current term until 2024 and would also give him the right to stand for another six-year term.

Other controversial amendments on the ballot include boosting his control over the judiciary and giving the military even greater influence in Egyptian political life.

Votes in exchange for goods?

AFP correspondents saw pro-Sisi volunteers handing out boxed meals at several polling stations in Cairo to voters after they had cast their ballots.

The parcels contained staples such as oil, rice, pasta and sugar.

Human Rights Watch has criticised the "grossly unfree, rights-abusive environment" of the vote, where the 'No' campaign has been effectively muzzled.

Ahmed Badawy, an engineer and youth activist with two political parties, wrote on Twitter on Sunday that he had been arrested, using the widely used hashtag "Go down, say No".

He posted a picture of himself earlier holding a red placard in an upmarket suburb of Cairo with the text "No, to the constitutional changes".

"He didn't commit any crimes. He was expressing his views in a peaceful manner", Badawy's lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer told AFP.

Badawy is detained in a police station but the family have received no official notification from the authorities, Baqer said.

Forced to vote

In Imbaba, a working-class suburb hugging the Nile, an eyewitness on Monday told AFP of seeing street vendors being forcefully loaded onto buses to go vote.

On the first day of the referendum, some voters told AFP their employers had encouraged them to vote "Yes" and transported them to polling stations in company buses.

In their initial report, an international observer team said "there were no hurdles to voting".

Egypt's state-affiliated foreign media body on Sunday denounced instances of critical international coverage.

The referendum also proposes other changes to the five-year-old constitution, including creating a second parliamentary chamber and a quota ensuring at least 25 percent of lawmakers are women.

The final results will be announced on April 27.

Source: AFP