Egyptians registered on the electoral roll who carry a valid passport or a national ID, even if it has expired, could take part in the voting process for Egyptians abroad in the 2024 presidential elections. The process, which ended Sunday, is reported to have run smoothly.
Votes were counted inside diplomatic missions after the end of the three-day ballot under the supervision of the National Election Authority (NEA).
Results, including the total number of votes cast and the number of valid and invalid votes, have been sent to the NEA through the Foreign Ministry and will be announced with the results of the home poll on 18 December.
Saber Mohamed, a labourer who works in Saudi Arabia, travelled to the consulate in Jeddah with two colleagues to perform what he described as his duty to his country.
Other Egyptians in Saudi Arabia, who live far from the polling stations in Riyadh and Jeddah, couldn’t take part in the elections.
The majority of Egyptian expats reside in Gulf countries followed by North America, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS).
Elham, a housewife who lives in Qatar, reports her polling station was busy. “I stood in a longish queue but it moved quickly. I was able to chat with other expats during the wait and felt that I was home,” she said.
The long distance expats had to travel to vote, especially in Saudi Arabia, the US and Canada, proved an insurmountable obstacle for some.
“Unfortunately, I had work over the weekend and it is a three-hour drive to the nearest polling station, so I was not able to vote,” said Mohamed Sherif, a doctor who lives far from the embassy and the five Egyptian consulates with polling stations in the US.
Said Henry lives and works in Ontario. He did vote, but only after making a six-hour drive to the embassy in Toronto.
“It was like a celebration for Egyptians inside their embassy. They all carried Egyptian flags and the picture of the candidate they wanted to elect,” he said.
Henry questioned why the authorities had opted to accept expired IDs as a valid document during the elections when they refuse them in transactions at home and added that the number of expats voting could have increased had the Interior Ministry committee that was supposed to travel to Canada to issue national ID cards turned up. Many children of expats, he said, who are of voting age, have never been issued an ID card or passport.
Expats could vote from 9am to 9pm between Friday and Sunday at 137 embassies and consulates in 121 countries.
The NEA published the addresses of all polling stations on its website. It set up a central operations room connected to foreign missions to monitor the voting process, as did the Ministry of Emigration and Egyptian Expatriates Affairs.
Minister of Emigration and Expatriates Affairs Soha Gendy said she had observed “a substantial turnout” which she thought was due to the vote being held at the weekend.
An estimated 14 million eligible voters are expatriates. The number of expats voting in the 2012 presidential elections was around 314,000. In 2014, over 318,000 voted, a figure that fell to157,000 in the 2018 poll.
Postal voting was allowed in the post-25 January Revolution parliamentary elections and the 2012 presidential poll to allow expats who live far from polling stations to take part. In the 2014 and 2018 presidential ballot voters had to attend in person.
The expat vote was scheduled earlier than the domestic vote to allow the NEA to exclude the names of those who had cast their ballots abroad from voter lists at home and to give sufficient time for foreign missions to count the votes and forward the results to the NEA.
In April 2011, the cabinet announced that Egyptians living overseas should be allowed to vote in presidential elections and referendums at embassies and consulates abroad as part of a raft of amendments to the law on political participation. In October the same year an administrative court ruled that Egyptians living abroad had the right to vote in parliamentary polls. A month later, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces passed a law regulating expatriate voting in parliamentary and presidential elections and in referendums, allowing expatriates to vote at embassies and consulates in the countries where they live.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 7 December, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly