Better than before
Expatriate turnout in the run-off presidential elections is expected to be higher than in the first round but some voters are turning up simply to spoil their ballots, reports Doaa El-Bey
Click to view caption|
From left: voting in Amman and Dubai; votes intentionally invalidated; and former presidential candidates protesting in Tahrir
"The National Democratic Party and the Muslim Brotherhood are like two blades of the same scissors." The phrase, coined by satiric writer Galal Amer, was, according to a report in one independent newspaper, scrawled across one voter's ballot paper. Neither of the two boxes was ticked.
Choosing between Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak's last prime minister, and Mohamed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, is proving unpalatable for many expatriate voters. Some are adding a third line to the ballot papers, adding the martyrs, the revolution, the names of Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh or Hamdeen Sabahi, both of whom were knocked out in the first round of the poll. In doing so they are deliberately spoiling their vote while registering dissatisfaction with the two candidates on offer.
Ahmed Adel, an expatriate in Saudi Arabia, says that it was extremely difficult to opt for either an Islamist or a member of the old regime. In the end, he voted for Shafik.
"I was against voiding my vote. I do not want to be passive. If the next president fails the people, they can always overthrow him," he said.
Saudi Arabia, home to the largest community of Egyptian expatriates, voted overwhelmingly for Mursi in the first round. The Brotherhood's candidate received 68,443 votes, well ahead of Abul-Fotouh with 36,480 votes. Sabahi came third with 15,292 votes.
"The results of the elections have placed us in an impossible position," says Mona Ali, a housewife living in Doha. Neither one of the run-off candidates, she insists, represents her or reflects the hopes and aspirations of the 25 January Revolution. The performance of the Islamist-dominated parliament has warned her sufficiently of what might lie in store not to vote for Mursi, but then neither will she vote for a member of the deposed regime. "I added Hamdeen Sabahi. I know that spoils my vote, but at least I could express my support for the revolution," she says.
Tarek, a labourer in Kuwait, had no qualms voting for the MB because, he says, they will safeguard Egyptian interests. Several of his friends, though, opted to boycott the vote.
Ayman, an ICT expert living in Canada, voted for Sabahi in the first round. In the run-off he opted for Shafik. As a Copt, he said, he could not condone a vote for Mursi. He hopes the verdict against Mubarak will act as a brake on his successor, encouraging the new president to listen to the people.
Mohamed El-Taher, a legal consultant living in the US, complains that the time allowed for registration and voting was short and the election website far from user friendly. Eventually he opted for Mursi, who "at least was in Tahrir Square on 28 January". Though he says he is a member of neither the Brotherhood nor its Freedom and Justice Party El-Taher believes Mursi "should have won 50 per cent of votes in the first round".
The registration period for expatriate voters was from 5 March to 11 April. Of the estimated eight to 10 million Egyptians living abroad, only 587,000 registered to vote, and of these just 314,000 cast ballots in the first round.
Expatriate Egyptians began voting in the run-off on 3 June, and the turnout is expected to be higher than in the first round. Just 20,000 Egyptians voted in person on the first day, though the number jumped to 50,000 on 4 June and to over 100,000 on 5 June. Voting stations at embassies and consulates abroad will remain open until 9 June, finally closing at 8pm local time.
Extra staff have been dispatched to cope with the increased turnout that is expected in Gulf states. Forty were sent to Riyadh, 15 to Jeddah, 50 to Kuwait, 10 to Muscat, 10 to Doha and 20 to the UAE. They were accompanied by additional computers and barcode scanners to ensure that the voting process runs smoothly.
The first round saw overcrowding at embassies and consulates in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Long queues in Saudi Arabia during the last two days of the first round brought the traffic around the Egyptian embassy to a standstill.
Expatriates can also vote by mail, sending their ballots to the relevant embassy.
Ballots are counted at the end of the voting period, in the presence of candidate's representatives and civil society representatives. The results will be declared in polling stations then forwarded to the Foreign Ministry which hands them over to the Presidential Elections Commission (PEC).
In the first round, Mursi led the expatriate vote with 106,252 ballots. He was followed by Abul-Fotouh on 77,499, Sabahi with 44,727 votes, Amr Moussa and then Shafik.
Last October an administrative court ruled that Egyptians living abroad had the right to cast ballots in the parliamentary polls. A month later the ruling military council passed a law regulating expatriate voting in parliamentary and presidential elections and in national referendums.
The declaration of the results of the expatriate vote in the first round before voting in Egypt began caused controversy, with some pundits arguing it would impact on people's decisions at home. That might be more likely in the run-off, with only two candidates competing. The PEC, however, has taken no steps to delay the announcement of the expatriate vote.