Thousands of Filipinos living in Qatar are expected to start voting tomorrow, casting ballots to elect a new president, vice-president and a dozen senators.
An official at the Philippines embassy in Qatar told Doha News that diplomatic staff spent roughly three years registering eligible residents in the Gulf state, adding an additional 17,000 individuals to voter rolls.
That brings the total number of registered voters to approximately 40,000 out of the estimated 250,000 Filipinos living in Qatar.
Embassy officials says they are hoping for a strong turnout:
“We recognize the contributions of (overseas foreign workers) … to our economy. It’s important to give them a role in terms of choosing the next leader of the country,” Gonaranao Musor, the deputy head of mission, told Doha News.
“Just because they are not in the Philippines, it should not stop them from having a say.”
Only those individuals who are already on the voting list are eligible to cast a ballot. The polls at the embassy open tomorrow, April 9, and will remain open for a month.
The embassy will be open to voters from 8am to 5pm on weekdays and 9am to 6pm on weekends. The exception is on the final day of voting, May 9, when polls will close at noon to coincide with the end of voting in the Philippines.
Ballots cast in Doha will be automatically read by a machine, with the results transmitted electronically to Manilla.
With incumbent President Benigno Aquino III prevented under the Constitution from seeking a second term, this year’s election will result in a new leader for one of east Asia’s fastest-growing countries.
Aquino has endorsed his interior secretary, Mar Roxas, to succeed him. However, polls show that the leading candidates are Senator Grace Poe, the adopted daughter of one of the country’s most famous movie stars, and current vice-president Jejomar Binay, according to the New York Times.
“(Overseas foreign workers) will likely be the swing vote,” Musor predicted.
In addition to selecting a new president, voters will also be electing a new vice-president and 12 senators.
Musor said he hoped the stakes in this election will generate more local interest than the 2013 senate elections, which only attracted 2,000 voters in Qatar.
“We’re hoping we can get a much better turnout,” he said.