Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1271, (19-25 November 2015)
Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Issue 1271, (19-25 November 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Expats in the second round

The second round of the Egyptian expatriate vote in the parliamentary elections will start next week amid expectations of a low turnout, reports Doaa El-Bey

Al-Ahram Weekly

Ali, an Egyptian professional who lived in the UK for nearly 15 years, believes Egyptian expatriates will try to participate more in the second round of the parliamentary elections to make up for the low turnout in the first round.

“However, given that the situation is unchanged, and judging from the social networks, the turnout could be as low as the first round,” he said.

Not enough information is provided about the candidates or electoral lists and the absence of postal votes will have “without doubt” an impact on the second round, Ali added.

Ali lives in northern England and will not be able to travel to London to vote at the Egyptian Embassy, but some of his friends will cast their ballots.

The absence of postal voting is not a big hurdle in England. However, it presented a genuine obstacle to those living in large countries like the US, Canada and Saudi Arabia.

“Although I would love to take part in the parliamentary elections I cannot drive hundreds of miles to vote,” said Rasha, a teacher who lives in Canada.

Ashraf, a labourer in Saudi Arabia who could not vote in the first round for the same reason, said that his friends face the same problem. “The nearest polling station is too far away for them. Besides, it will cost them a lot of money to travel. Some of them can’t afford it,” Ashraf said.

In the first round, 30,531 expat voters took part in the elections, according to the head of the High Election Committee (HEC), Ayman Abbas. A total of 28,675 votes were valid and 1,856 were void.

The first round of expatriate voting started on 17 October and continued for two days with “average participation”, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The most recent figure for pre-registered voters abroad, recorded in the 2012 presidential elections, was 861,695, with 571,305 citizens living in the Gulf.

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

A total of 139 Egyptian embassies and consulates around the world are hosting the expat vote for this year’s parliamentary elections. But, according to Assistant Foreign Minister Hamdi Loza there will be no polling stations in Somalia, Libya, Syria and the Central African Republic for political or security reasons. Expatriates living in these countries are allowed to vote in polling stations in nearby countries or to travel to Egypt to vote.

In previous elections, the HEC cancelled voting in Libya, Yemen and Syria for the same reasons. Egyptian diplomatic offices in these countries are closed due to security risks and political turmoil.

The expat voting process is in two phases: the first round was on 17 and 18 October and the second will be carried out on 21 and 22 November.

Expatriates are expected to present their national IDs or passports, including their national ID number and home address in Egypt, and fill out a form confirming their residence abroad before being allowed to vote. The form is available on the HEC website.

The expatriate vote is usually held earlier than the home vote to allow more time for expatriates to vote and for the results to be sent to the elections committee.

Counting will start in each polling station at the end of the second polling day. The missions are not supposed to disclose the results, which are sent to the Foreign Ministry in Egypt which then collects the results and sends them to the HEC. The HEC will then declare the results of the expatriate vote along with those of the nationwide vote.

The polling stations in embassies and consulates abroad comprise members of the diplomatic and consular corps, as well as administrative personnel from Egypt’s embassies worldwide.

The HEC took part in a workshop, training diplomats and embassy administrative staff taking part in the expat elections on how to use the latest technology.

The new system used for the elections — introduced after the 2011 January Revolution — gives every Egyptian citizen living abroad, whether temporarily or permanently, and who is registered on the electoral roll and has a national ID card, even if expired, or a computerised 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 some measures to make voting easier for expatriates, among them cancelling the pre-registration that was seen as an obstacle for many voters in previous elections. The use of passports as IDs has allowed a large number of expats who do not have national IDs to take part in the elections.

But the cancellation of the postal vote is a drawback. Voting by post, allowed in the previous parliamentary and the 2012 presidential elections, was helpful for thousands of citizens, especially those living in countries like Saudi Arabia, Canada and the US. Voting in last year’s constitutional referendum and presidential elections was only allowed in person.

Cancelling the postal vote was attributed to the desire 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.

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 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 referendums, allowing expatriates to vote in embassies and consulates in the countries in which they lived.

There are from eight to 10 million Egyptians living abroad.

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