Interview: Egypt’s deputy FM on preparations for expat vote during presidential elections

With Egypt’s presidential elections approaching, the Foreign Minister’s Deputy Hamdi Loza, who oversees the elections for Egyptians abroad, gave an interview to Al-Ahram Al-Massai where he discussed the ministry’s latest preparations for the vote.

Loza said that the ministry is holding training courses for committees that will supervise voting abroad under the supervision of the National Elections Authority (NEA), as well as other procedures aimed at facilitating the highest turnout from expats.

Loza called on Egyptians abroad to participate in the presidential elections, which will begin on March 16 and last for three days.

“The embassies do not inquire about any official documents or legal residence; the only thing that matters to us is providing all the facilities for Egyptians to vote, wherever they are,” the ambassador affirmed.

On the nature of the cooperation between the foreign ministry and the NEA, Loza affirmed that the NEA is the sole entity responsible for supervising the electoral process, and that the ministry has begun communication with expats after the NEA set the timeline for the presidential elections in January.

In addition to providing advisors, a technical staff from the NEA will supervise the equipment used in voting abroad, Loza said.

The courses will be organised directly before the elections so that supervisors are aware of the latest information related to the electoral process, which will take place from 9am to 9pm for Egyptians abroad.

Loza said that voting for Egyptian expats is limited to countries where Egypt has diplomatic missions.

Voting will not be taking place in countries like Libya, where there is currently no Egyptian embassy due to the security situation, which will prevent the participation of a large number of Egyptians, Loza said.

On the expected turnout of expats, Loza said that he hopes it will be similar to that of the 2014 elections, when Egyptians registered in high numbers to “support their nation and prove to the international community that what happened in Egypt represents the will of the people”.

“There are two mechanisms to promote the presidential elections; electoral campaigns, which support candidates and have no connection to Egyptian embassies, and general conferences, which are held to encourage expats to participate in the elections,” he added.

The law of the exercising of political rights prevents any official from participating in any activity that can be interpreted as favouring one of the candidates, the ambassador affirmed.

The voting is set to take place on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday to eliminate any obstacles that might prevent Egyptians abroad from participating, the ambassador said.

Loza also said that training sessions are being held for 140 members of the foreign ministry who will be part of diplomatic missions abroad supervising polling stations.

“The foreign ministry members will ensure that no Egyptians who cast ballots abroad will be able to vote inside Egypt during the 26-28 March elections,” he added.

Loza also said that 139 diplomatic missions will be supervising the elections worldwide, adding that Kuwait, Jeddah, Riyadh and Dubai have large Egyptian expat communities.

Polling stations will set up inside Egyptian embassies or consulates. Loza said that there will be three polling stations in Germany and two in France, Italy, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

He said there are no official numbers for Egyptians abroad with the eligibility to vote.

“We have heard about the estimated 10 million Egyptians abroad, just like other numbers, but in reality, we have not witnessed such a number in any previous elections,” he said, adding there is no voter database for Egyptian expats.

According to Loza, Egyptian expats are included in the main voter database, which in 2015 registered around 54 million eligible voters.

Egypt currently has a population of around 95 million, according to the latest census in 2017.

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