Egyptians abroad urged to vote in four-day expat poll

Ayat Al-Tawy, Wednesday 14 May 2014

Egypt's Presidential Elections Commission (PEC) is hoping for a high turnout in the vote, starting with Egypt's expats

Sabahi & Sisi
Egypt's two presidential contenders Sabahi and Sisi

Egypt's Presidential Election Committee (PEC) has urged expats to vote en masse in a presidential poll that will open at Egyptian consulates across 124 countries on Thursday.

The electoral commission said on Wednesday in a televised press conference that additional polling locations had opened in some countries – namely in China, Germany, Russia and Jordan – so as to help increase voter turnout among expatriate Egyptians in the four-day poll that will conclude on May 18.

The presidential vote is scheduled to open at home on 26-27 May and is expected to be won by former army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. Only one other rival is running for the country's top post – leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who finished third in the 2012 election that brought Mohamed Morsi to power.

The vote is the second milestone in a transitional roadmap set out by interim authorities following Morsi's ouster last July. The first was a January referendum on an amended constitution in which about only 107,000 expatriates cast their ballots – out of over 600,000 eligible Egyptian voters in 161 countries.

Al-Ahram's daily Arabic newspaper has quoted the foreign ministry as saying that nearly the same number are allowed to vote in Thursday's poll.

"We aim to facilitate procedures in order to increase voter turnout, so that they have a real engagement in the country's political life," ambassador and interim Deputy Prime Minister Hamdy Louza told reporters on Wednesday.

Officials say an estimated 6-8 million Egyptians live abroad, with Saudi Arabia housing the largest Egyptian expat community – almost 45 percent.

Only those registered in the electoral committee's voter lists will be eligible to cast their ballots, either with their national IDs or passports across 141 polling locations at embassies in 124 countries, the PEC's Secretary-General Abdel-Aziz Salman said at Wednesday's press conference.

Illegal migrants are also eligible to vote, he added.

Citing security concerns, officials on Wednesday said that voting had been canceled in some countries, including war-torn Syria, Libya, Somalia and the Central African Republic (CAR).

A tally of the expatriate poll will be announced after voting commences, with the final official results to be unveiled with those of the domestic vote at the end of May.

Postal voting was banned in the January referendum in order to avoid legal challenges, with voters required to cast ballots in person at embassies. The change was cited as one of the factors that contributed to a low turnout in this year's constitutional referendum.

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