Tuesday,12 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1272, (26 November - 2 December 2015)
Tuesday,12 December, 2017
Issue 1272, (26 November - 2 December 2015)

Ahram Weekly

More expats turn up to vote

The second round of the Egyptian expatriate vote in the parliamentary elections saw a 22 per cent rise in turnout, reports Doaa El-Bey

Al-Ahram Weekly

“It seems the low turnout in the first round prompted more voters to turn up and have a say in forming the first post 30 June parliament,” says Essam, a doctor who lives in the UK.

Voter turnout among expat Egyptians in the second round of parliamentary elections increased by 22 per cent with

37,168 voters casting ballots, compared with 30,531 in the first round, Deputy Foreign Minister Hamdi Loza told a press conference on Sunday. Loza reported the voting process ran smoothly, except in Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and Amman in Jordan, where technical glitches temporarily disrupted the poll though they were quickly resolved. He also noted that the polling station in Paris witnessed a higher turnout than in the first stage of the elections.

Many voters complained before both stages of the poll that too little information about candidates and electoral lists was available to enable them to make an informed choice.

The absence of postal voting was also an obstacle to expatriate Egyptians living in large states such as the US, Canada or Saudi Arabia.

“It’s not that simple if you have to drive for hundreds of miles in order to vote,” said Dahlia, a teacher who lives in Canada. “In the last parliamentary elections I was able to just send in the required forms and that was that.”

Of the 30,531 votes cast in the first stage 1,856 were void, says Ayman Abbas, head of the Higher Election Committee (HEC).

The first round of expatriate voting started on 17 October and continued for two days with “average participation”, according to the Foreign Ministry. The second round began on Saturday. Poll stations were open till 9pm local time in every country on both Saturday and Sunday.

The number of registered voters abroad at the time of the 2012 presidential elections, the most recent figure available, was 861,695, 571,305 living in the Gulf.

Of the 317,109 expats who took part in last year’s presidential elections more than 90 per cent voted for Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. In the 2012 presidential elections 314,000 expats took part; 287,000 went to the polls in the last parliamentary elections.

Expatriate Egyptians in Somalia, Libya, Syria and the Central African Republic, where security conditions preclude the opening of polling stations, were able to vote in neighbouring states or travel to Egypt. Elsewhere, 139 Egyptian embassies and consulates opened their doors to voters.
Voters were required to present their national IDs or passports, including a national ID number and home address in Egypt, and fill in a form, available on the HEC website, confirming their residence abroad before being allowed to vote. The expatriate vote is held earlier than the domestic vote to allow time for the results to be sent to the relevant election committees.

Missions abroad are not authorised to disclose the results of the count which must first be sent to the Foreign Ministry in Cairo which then passes them to the HEC.

Polling stations in embassies and consulates abroad are staffed by members of the diplomatic and consular corps and administrative personnel from Egypt’s missions worldwide.

This year the HEC organised training workshops in the technology being used in the poll for diplomats and embassy administrative staff.

Since the 25 January Revolution every Egyptian citizen living abroad, whether temporarily or permanently, who is registered on the electoral roll and has a national ID card, even if out of date, or a computerised passport, has the right to cast a vote in the nearest Egyptian embassy or consulate.

The committee that oversees expat voting has gradually introduced measures to simplify the process including allowing passports to be used by those Egyptians who do not have a national ID card.

Yet the cancellation of the postal vote still rankles with many. Voting in last year’s constitutional referendum and presidential elections was only allowed in person, a step that prevented many residents in Canada, the US and Saudi Arabia living far from polling stations, to cast their ballots.

The debate over whether Egyptian expatriates should be allowed to vote in elections dates back to April 2011 when changes to the law on political participation enshrined the rights of those living overseas to take part in presidential elections and referendums. In October 2011 an Administrative Court ruling extended the right to parliamentary polls. A month later the then ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces passed a law regulating expatriate voting in parliamentary and presidential elections and in referendums.

An estimated eight to ten million Egyptians live abroad.

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