A week before presidential elections commence in Egypt, hundreds of expats in Qatar have cast their absentee ballots at the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Dafna, amid a heavy police presence.
Overseas voting began on Thursday and was supposed to conclude today, but the embassy said it is extending the polls until tomorrow, May 19, due to “high voter turnout.”
The embassy will be closed on Tuesday, May 20, to tally the votes.
Facing off in this election are former Minister of Defense and head of the Egyptian Army General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, represented by the star symbol, and left-leaning politician Hamdeen Sabahy, represented by the eagle.
Doha News spoke to more than dozen Egyptians who cast their ballots yesterday to find out who they voted for and why. Most said they supported the frontrunner general, though some said they were boycotting the vote. A minority favored Sabahy.
Nagi Ismail, 51, who is an accountant at Qatar Takaful Company, said he voted for Al Sisi because he believes that Egypt needs military leadership.
“Al Sisi is a man of discipline and has enough power to take over the country, unlike Sabahy,” he said.
Al Sisi has gained nationwide momentum in the months after ousting President Mohamed Morsi following mass protests on June 30 of last year.
Since then, he has garnered the support of many Egyptian institutions that took part in the protests against the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Morsi’s one-year in power.
But expat Ramy Farahat said he is boycotting the elections, because he believes that Al Sisi was “forced upon” Egyptians via traditional media and social media.
“The media has forced one candidate upon us and another one with no experience in government, which I find baffling considering that only two Egyptians out of (millions) have decided to run in the elections,” he said.
Farahat’s wife on the other hand, Hala Abdel Alim, said that Al Sisi was her choice because she wanted Egyptians to “stay united.”
Expat Mohamed Galal, an avid supporter of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, also said he was on his way to cast a ballot for Al Sisi.
“I don’t believe in the January 25 Revolution and I don’t believe that someone who has only done nothing but go to jail can actually offer anything,” Galal said in reference to the time Sabahy served in prison.
Sabahi, leader of the Egyptian Popular Current who ran in the 2012 presidential elections and came in third, was jailed 17 times for his opposing politics under former successive presidents, Anwar Al Sadat and Mubarak.
Waleed Elfaramawy, a 20-year-old Egyptian expat who studies in France, said he supports the candidate because of his beliefs in freedom and justice.
Elfaramawy added that by voting for Al Sisi, he would be voting for Mubarak’s regime to rule once more.
Ahmed Mondi, 28, echoed a similar sentiment to that of Elfaramawy’s.
“We need a civilian who believes in our revolution and holds a civilian ideology, not a military one,” he said.
On the other hand, Manal Ezzat, a housewife, believes that a partisan candidate would steer Egyptians “in the wrong direction” given what happened with Morsi.
Results so far
In a statement, the electoral commission said on on Friday that as many as 107,116 voters from 124 countries have so far cast their ballots.
Expat Egyptians began casting their ballots on May 15, and Egyptians abroad can vote at 141 overseas embassies and diplomatic missions until tonight (May 18).
In a marked change from the previous presidential elections in 2012, no prior registration has been necessary to vote.
Now, voters registered in the electoral committee’s voter lists would be eligible to vote, using either a valid national ID or passport, Egypt’s Presidential Election Committee (PEC) said.
The voting process is going to be electronically monitored, which should make it easier to avoid violations.
According to PEC, voters are prohibited to vote at more than one embassy, or from casting their ballot twice, abroad and in Egypt.
In the meantime, the presidential vote is scheduled to start on May 26 and 27 in Egypt. The vote is the second following the January referendum on amending the constitution.
The official results of the absentee votes, in addition to the tally of ballots cast domestically, is expected to be announced at the end of May. But many embassy officials and Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials have already been appearing in Egyptian media, promising the overseas voting would be announced within 24 hours of the ballots closing.
Voters can find their names in the database in addition to more information about how and where to vote, on the electoral commission’s official website here.
Did you vote? Thoughts?