Mohamed Mursi tops the run-off ballot among the minority of expatriate Egyptians who opted to cast a ballot, writes Doaa El-Bey
"Thank God All Mighty, Egyptians abroad are wise enough to choose the right candidate, the one who will raise the word of Allah," commented one micro-bus driver.
A majority of Egyptian expatriate voters may have opted for the Brotherhood's candidate, Mohamed Mursi, rather than Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, but the choice is unlikely to have been as simple as the micro-bus driver implied. Both at home and abroad many voters find themselves caught in a dilemma. Some favour a civil state but are loath to vote for Shafik, seen as a representative of the regime which the 25 January Revolution hoped to overthrow. They may be wary of political Islam but refuse to betray the revolution and vote for the old regime. Others simply boycotted the election, or tuned up to spoil their ballots and register disapproval of both candidates.
Ayman El-Sayyad, managing editor of the cultural monthly Weghat Nazar (Points of View), believes that during the last 15 months systematic attempts to exacerbate sectarian tensions have led many voters, including Egypt's Copts, into the arms of the self professed secular candidate.
"Those who voted for Mursi do not necessarily want Mursi but are against the old regime. Those who voted for Shafik do not necessarily want him but they are against what is called political Islam," he said.
Mohamed El-Meneisi, head of the institution for expatriate affairs at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, believes expatriate run-off results have been influenced by the values of the societies in which Egyptians are living. "Expatriates who live in Europe or the US and Canada were influenced by the society they live in. The same applies to those who live in the Gulf," he said.
Among expatriates who bothered to vote, two thirds plumped for Mursi, who won in most Arab and Islamic states, but also in Germany and the UK. Shafik topped the poll in other European countries, as well as in the US and Canada.
Hisham, a doctor who has lived in Saudi Arabia for decades, says he voted for Shafik not because he was in favour of the old regime or a civil state, but because he was opposed to the trend among expatriate Egyptians in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to vote for Mursi for no other reason than he being the Brotherhood's candidate.
Saudi Arabia, home to the largest community of Egyptian expatriates, voted overwhelmingly for Mursi in both rounds. Mursi received more than 74,000 votes in Riyadh and 50,000 votes in Jeddah in the run-off. In the first round he received 68,443 votes, well ahead of Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh with 36,480 votes. Hamdeen Sabahi came third with 15,292 votes.
Ayman, an ICT expert living in Canada, said he voted for Shafik because as a Copt he has qualms about voting for an Islamist candidate. He was unhappy with the way the choice of candidates had polarised the Egyptian community. He voted for Sabahi in the first round. In Canada Shafik won 4,401 votes and Mursi 1,872.
An estimated 310,000 Egyptians living abroad voted in the run-off according to a Foreign Ministry statement issued on Monday. Egyptians in Riyadh accounted for more than 75,000, followed by Kuwait with 54,530, Jeddah with 54,047 and the UAE with 33,000.
Expatriate Egyptians voted in the run-offs between 3 and 9 June. Ballots were counted in the presence of candidates' and civil society representatives. The results were declared in polling stations then forwarded to the Foreign Ministry which handed them to the Presidential Elections Commission (PEC) which will declare the official tally before the domestic vote begins.
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, of which 314,000 cast ballots in the first round and 310,000 in the run-off.
Declaring expatriate results before polling in Egypt has been the subject of controversy, with some analysts complaining it could affect voting intentions in the main poll. That, says El-Sayyad, is unlikely, given that the candidates represent such clearly opposed trends. Far more probable, he says, is that the results might convince those inclined to boycott the poll to actually vote out of fear that the trend they oppose will win.
In 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.