The turnout of expatriate Egyptians for run-off elections fell but they faced the same problems as in the first round, reports Doaa El-Bey
Expatriates seeking to vote in the run-off polls faced a narrow window of opportunity as the Supreme Elections Committee (SEC) opened the website for voters on Saturday only to close it on Monday afternoon.
Initially it was supposed to close on Sunday night but was extended until Monday afternoon to allow voters more time says Nada Hamed, a housewife living in the US. "That is a very short time. Besides, the post only works for a limited time on Saturday in the US and it does not work at all on Sunday," she told Al-Ahram Weekly. "This made it difficult for many people living in the US to download the run-off election form and send it by mail."
More than 120,000 voters of a total of 169,000 registered took part in the first round. Less than half this number took part in the second round. The votes were sorted in the embassies in the presence of representatives from the Egyptian community. The results were sent on Tuesday with the diplomatic post to the Foreign Ministry which handed them to the SEC to declare with the results of the second round.
In order to avoid similar problems in the next two phases, Amr El-Agamawi, the executive director of the Cabinet Information and Decision Support Centre and member of the elections' coordination committee declared that the SEC website would be open starting from Wednesday for voters to download ballots for the second phase.
Many expatriates have complained that it proved difficult and time consuming to access information on the various candidates and their platforms.
"Working full time I did not have enough leisure to do my election homework," says Mohamed Abdu. "I am not sure whether my choice is the most-informed or the best for Egypt."
Most Egyptian expatriates live in the Gulf. The 1.2 million Egyptians in Saudi Arabia comprise the biggest expatriate voting bloc. More than 142,000 of them registered to vote in Saudi Arabia, and 35,000 took part in the first phase of voting. Nearly 26,000 Egyptians voted in Kuwait and 12,000 in the United Arab Emirates.
Egyptian expats had to use national ID cards as proof of identity when voting, a decision that deprived some Egyptians in the US, Canada and Australia from casting a ballot.
Karim Said, a student living in Canada with his family, could not vote because he does not have a national ID card.
"I cannot visit Egypt every year because of the long flight and the short breaks that I have because of my studies," he told the Weekly. He believed he should have been allowed a vote on the basis of his passport.
Though the Interior Ministry dispatches delegations to the US, Canada and Europe to issue ID cards to expatriates more than 80 per cent have yet to obtain their ID cards. Out of the more than seven million Egyptian expats, only 355,569 people registered on embassy websites to vote. Of these, just 120,000 voted in the first round of the elections.
Azza Hassan, a social worker in England, said she did not manage to register her name during the registration period in November because the registration page was either overloaded or unavailable. As a result she was not able to vote although she wanted to take part in the formation of the first post-revolution parliament.
Many voters faced problems with downloading the registration form. They were required to register their names before the elections took place, and they were given a code number in order to be able to vote. Registration was open from 10 to 19 November. During the registration period, Egyptian embassies and consulates abroad provided expatriates with information about registration via e-mail, Facebook and mobile phones as well as placing advertisements in media popular among Egyptians.
Ahmed Ragheb, assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Consulates and Egyptian Expatriates, says officials are working with the SEC to ensure voting goes more smoothly in the Egyptian presidential elections set for June 2012.
Voting by Egyptian expatriates started two days before the first round of elections in Egypt. The voting took place after Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces changed the election law to allow Egyptians abroad to cast their ballots at embassies or by post.
The decision to allow Egyptian expatriates to take part in the parliamentary elections came after an administrative court ruling in October ordering the government to facilitate voting by Egyptian residents abroad. Last month the SEC agreed that embassies and consulates abroad could be used as polling stations.