Voters wait in line before casting their votes during Egypt's presidential election, at a polling station in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo: Nasr Zaalouk)
Egyptians living abroad began Thursday to cast their ballots in a presidential poll that is expected to bring former army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to power.
Egyptian embassies and consulates across 124 countries are expected to open Thursday for voting over 12 hours, from 9am local time, Egypt's foreign ministry said.
Polling locations in Paris, Austria's Vienna, Sudan's Khartoum and New Zealand's Wellington opened their doors Thursday morning for expatriate Egyptians to vote in the four-day poll that will conclude 18 May, state news agency MENA has said.
The presidential vote is scheduled to open at home 26-27 May and is highly tipped to be won by retired army chief and frontrunner chief El-Sisi. Only one other rival running for the country's top post is leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in the 2012 election.
The vote is the second milestone in a transitional roadmap set out by interim authorities following Mohamed Morsi's ouster last July. The first was a January referendum on an amended constitution in which around only 107,000 expatriates cast their ballots out of over 600,000 eligible Egyptian voters in 161 countries.
Al-Ahram daily Arabic newspaper has quoted the foreign ministry as saying that nearly the same number are allowed to vote in Thursday's poll.
The Egyptian consulate in New Zealand's capital, Wellington, was the first to open voting Wednesday at 11pm Cairo local time (CLT), with polling stations in Los Angeles to be the latest to open, at 6pm CLT, foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdel Atty said Wednesday.
Migrants, Egyptian tourists and pilgrims registered in official voter lists are eligible to cast their ballots in this year's elections, in a new measure taken by authorities to aim for a bigger turnout, officials have said.
Officials say an estimated 6-8 million Egyptians live abroad, with Saudi Arabia housing the largest Egyptian expat community — almost 45 percent of the total.
Only those registered in the electoral committee's voter lists will be eligible to cast ballots, either with their national IDs or passports across 141 polling locations at embassies in 124 countries, the Presidential Elections Committee said.
A tally of the expatriate poll will be announced after voting commences, with the final official results 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..