Islam, an Egyptian student who has lived in the UK for four years, is keen to take part in the upcoming parliamentary election. He believes it is his duty to exercise his vote and help choose who will represent him.
“Postal voting makes the whole process easy. I will register and be ready to have a say on 21 October,” he said.
Egyptians abroad must register to vote between Sunday 27 September and 10 October.
In mid-September the Foreign Ministry called on Egyptian expatriates to register on the website of the National Elections Authority (NEA) to be able to take part in the parliamentary elections set to be held from 21 to 23 October. Only registered voters will be able to print their ballot papers and vote via e-mail.
In previous elections voters were able to cast their ballots in person at diplomatic missions in the country in which they were living.
“This time it is different. I will not have to travel to the embassy to cast my ballot. That is far easier and less time consuming,” says Sami, an Egyptian who has lived in New York for more than 20 years.
“The real challenge is finding out information about the candidates and deciding who will best represent me,” he added.
Minister of Immigration and Egyptian Expatriate Affairs Nabila Makram said in July that after registering their data on the official NEA website voters will receive a confidential code that they must enter on voting day to access to the ballot paper which voters can print, choose their candidates, and place in a blank and sealed envelope. A declaration will appear on the website confirming the voter’s participation in the ballot. The declaration must then be printed out, signed by the voter and placed, together with the blank envelope, a copy of the voter’s national ID card or passport and their residence permit, in a clearly addressed envelope that the voter then sends via express mail to the Egyptian diplomatic mission in the country they live in.
“I failed to register my data for the Senate elections in August. But I will not miss the registration this time,” says Riad, a labourer who has been working in Saudi Arabia for eight years.
Postal votes are proving very useful in countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait that have high numbers of Egyptian expats, and in countries like the US and Canada where the nearest diplomatic mission could be hundreds of miles away.
The expatriate vote is usually held earlier than the domestic vote to allow for the results to be sent to the relevant election committee.
The first phase of parliamentary voting for expatriates will take place between 21 and 23 October and any run-offs between 21 to 23 November. Final results of the first phase will be declared on 30 November.
The second phase of the expat vote will be between 4 and 6 November, with the results declared on the 15 November. Run-offs will be held between 5 and 7 December and the final results declared on 14 December.
Every Egyptian citizen living abroad, whether temporarily or permanently, who is registered on the electoral roll and has a national ID card, even if it has expired, or a computerized passport, has the right to cast a vote at the nearest Egyptian embassy or consulate.
Postal voting was allowed in the 2012 parliamentary and presidential elections and proved helpful for thousands of expatriates. Voting in the 2014 and 2018 presidential elections was only in person.
In April 2011 the then cabinet announced that Egyptians living overseas should be allowed to vote in presidential elections and referendums at embassies and consulates abroad as part of amendments to the law on political participation. In October 2011 an administrative court ruled that Egyptians living abroad had the right to cast ballots 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 referendums, allowing expatriates to vote at embassies and consulates in the countries in which they lived.
“Now expats can make full use of technology in registering and casting their ballots in the comfort of their own homes. This is an enormous advantage in this time of COVID-19,” said Dina, a teacher who has lived in Kuwait for the last 12 years.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 1 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.