Deputy Foreign Minister Hamdi Loza has called on Egyptian expatriates to turn out and vote in the presidential elections. For Egyptians living abroad voting takes place between 16 and 18 March.
Ballots can be cast at 139 polling stations in the embassies and consulates of 124 countries. Expatriates will need a national ID card or valid computerised passport to be eligible to vote.
Polling stations will be open from 9am to 9pm on each of the three election days. Votes will be collated inside embassies and diplomatic missions and the results sent to the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
The largest bloc of Egyptian expatriates live in Saudi Arabia, followed by Kuwait, the UAE and Qatar.
Distance from polling stations — especially in countries like Canada, the US and Saudi Arabia — can be an obstacle to taking part in the poll. Postal votes were allowed in the post-25 January Revolution parliamentary elections and the 2012 presidential elections after which the practice was discontinued, a decision attributed to the desire to ensure Egyptians living inside and outside the country are treated equally. Inside Egypt votes must be cast in person.
Polling stations abroad will be manned by members of the diplomatic and consular corps and administrative staff from Egypt’s missions worldwide.
The Foreign Ministry has issued instructions on voting procedures to all missions abroad.
Last week, in coordination with the NEC, training workshops were held for 140 members of the Foreign Ministry who will supervise polling stations.
Foreign missions have been provided with electronic scanners so that the voters’ IDs and passports can be quickly scanned.
As in previous parliamentary and presidential elections an operations room will be designated in the Foreign Ministry’s Cairo headquarters to monitor the vote and follow up on any problems that arise.
In January Minister of Immigration and Expatriate Affairs Nabila Makram Ebeid told a press conference that all Egyptian expats — regardless of their legal status — will be allowed to vote.
“They will need to bring their national ID card or a valid computerised passport to the relevant embassy or consulate in their host country on any of the voting days,” she said.
As in previous elections there are no arrangements for Egyptians living in Somalia, Libya and Syria to cast ballots owing to security conditions, and this year Yemen joins the list.
In Egypt the vote will be held between 26 and 28 March.
For expatriates any run-off is scheduled between 19 and 21 April, and in Egypt between 24 and 26 April.
If no run-off is necessary the winner will be announced on 2 April.
It was in April 2011, in the context of amendments to the law on political participation, that the government first announced Egyptians living overseas should be allowed to vote in parliamentary and presidential elections and referenda.
In October 2011 an administrative court ruled expatriates should also have the right to vote in parliamentary polls.
A month later the then-ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) passed a law regulating expatriate voting in parliamentary and presidential elections and in referenda, allowing ballots to be cast in embassies and consulates abroad.
Subsequently, the requirement to pre-register — seen as an obstacle to many overseas voters taking part in the poll — was cancelled, and passports were allowed alongside IDs as valid identification.
In 2017 the government estimated the number of Egyptians abroad at 9.4 million.
There is no voter database for Egyptian expats though some say the figure could reach 10 million if illegal migrants are included.
In the 2014 presidential election 317,109 Egyptians abroad voted, with more than 90 per cent casting ballots for Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.
In the 2012 presidential elections 314,000 expats took part, and 287,000 in the last parliamentary poll.
*This story was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly