Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Expats to have their say

Amid expectations of a low turnout in the absence of postal voting, Egyptian expatriates will take part in electing the first post-30 June parliament next week, reports Doaa El-Bey

Al-Ahram Weekly

“I have been waiting for the election for months. I cannot wait to take part, even though I have to travel all the way to Washington to cast my vote. It is a shame that there is no postal voting,” said Nervana, a housewife who has lived in the US for decades. Some of her friends and acquaintances will not be able to travel to the nearest Egyptian mission to vote, she said.

Ashraf, a labourer who has lived in Saudi Arabia for more than 15 years, cannot afford to travel to Jeddah or Riyadh to vote in the elections. “I know it is important to take part, but I cannot take a day off and I cannot afford the expense of travelling,” he said. He was not as lucky as some of his colleagues who are travelling together to Riyadh, thus sharing transport costs.

Assistant Foreign Minister Hamdi Loza called on all Egyptians abroad to take part in the upcoming parliamentary elections, saying, “Voters should turn a deaf ear to any rumours about the voting process.” He was speaking at a Sunday press conference at the Foreign Ministry in the presence of Higher Election Committee (HEC) spokesman Omar Marawan.

Loza was referring to possible protests that might attempt to disrupt the elections. He called on Egyptian expatriates to not pay attention to threats of unrest near Egyptian missions, saying that the voting process would be safe.

A total of 136 Egyptian embassies and consulates around the world will be hosting expatriate voting in the parliamentary elections. More than eight million Egyptians live abroad.

For political and security reasons, however, there will be no polling stations in Somalia, Libya, Syria and the Central African Republic. Expatriates living in these countries will be required to vote at polling stations in nearby countries or to travel to Egypt to vote, he said.

In previous elections, the HEC has cancelled voting in Libya, Yemen and Syria for the same reasons, with Egyptian diplomatic missions in these countries being shut down as a result of security or political turmoil. The expatriate voting process is scheduled in two phases: the first round is scheduled for 17 and 18 October and the second will be carried out on 21 and 22 November.

At the Cairo press conference, Marawan said that expatriates are expected to present their national IDs or passports that include their national ID number and home address in Egypt, in addition to filling out a form confirming their residence abroad. The form is available on the HEC website.

“The HEC is taking part in a workshop that trains diplomats and embassy administrative staff taking part in the expatriate elections in the latest election technology,” Marawan added.

In last year’s presidential elections, more than 317,109 expatriates took part in the voting, with more than 90 per cent of the voters choosing Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi as Egypt’s president. Some 314,000 expatriates took part in the 2012 presidential elections and 287,000 in the last parliamentary elections, in 2011.

The expatriate vote is being held one day before the home vote in order to allow more time, including the weekend, for expatriates to vote and for the results to be sent to the elections committee.

The count will start on Sunday evening in each embassy and consulate after the polling stations close. The missions are not supposed to disclose the results, which will be sent to the Foreign Ministry in Egypt, which will collect them and send them on to the HEC. The latter will then declare the results of the expatriate vote with those of the home vote.

The polling stations in embassies and consulates abroad will be manned by members of the diplomatic and consular corps, as well as administrative personnel from Egypt’s embassies worldwide. The new system used for the elections, introduced after the 25 January Revolution, gives every Egyptian citizen living abroad, whether temporarily or permanently, who is registered on the electoral roll and has a national ID card, even if expired, or a valid passport, the right to cast his or her vote at the nearest Egyptian embassy or consulate.

The committee in charge of the procedures has taken measures to make voting easier for expatriates, among them by cancelling the pre-registration that had been an obstacle for many voters in previous elections. It is also allowing expatriates to use digital passports as their ID, giving the opportunity to vote to a huge number of Egyptians abroad who do not have national IDs.

However, the cancellation of postal voting is regarded as a drawback in this year’s elections. Voting by post, allowed in the previous parliamentary and the 2012 presidential elections, was helpful to thousands of citizens, especially those living in countries like Saudi Arabia, Canada and the US where it can be difficult to travel long distances.

The voting in last year’s constitutional referendum and presidential elections was only allowed in person, a step that was not welcomed by many residents in Canada, the US and Saudi Arabia, including those living far from polling stations.

The cancellation of the postal vote has been done to give equal rights to Egyptians living inside and outside the country. People inside Egypt have to cast their votes in person and are only allowed to use their national ID card in order to do so.

The controversy over the right of Egyptian expatriates to vote in elections dates back to April 2011, when the then-cabinet announced that Egyptians living overseas should be allowed to vote in the presidential elections and referendums at embassies and consulates abroad as part of amendments to the law on political participation.

In October 2011, an administrative court ruled that Egyptians living abroad had the right to cast their ballots in the parliamentary polls. One month later, Egypt’s then-ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) passed a law regulating expatriate voting in parliamentary and presidential elections and in referenda, allowing expatriates to vote in embassies and consulates in the countries where they live.

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