Egyptian expats kick off presidential vote

Voting opens Thursday at more than 140 polling stations overseas

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Egyptian expatriates in more than 140 countries on Wednesday began casting ballots in four days of voting for Egypt’s coming presidential election.

The country’s Presidential Election Committee urged Egyptians abroad to participate in the vote, which sees former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Leftist leader Hamdeen Sabahi run for Cairo’s top post.

The commission said in a televised statement on Wednesday that additional polling stations were opened in countries with more Egyptian expatriates.

The official spokesman of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Badr Abdul Ati said told Al Arabiya News Channel that voter turnout was “heavy” especially in Asian countries.

Salah Youssef, the general coordinator for Egyptians abroad, said the voter turnout is expected to increase through the weekend.

In Saudi Arabia, home to Egypt’s largest expatriate community, Al Arabiya correspondent reported long queues before the polling stations in Riyadh.

Egyptian ambassador to Kuwait told Egypt’s state TV that voting there was going “smooth and without problems.”

In Dubai, Egypt’s General Consular Sharif al-Badawi said voting was “heavy.” He said the cancellation of the prior registration requirement for voting “gave the opportunity for many to participate in the elections.”

Nearly 6-8 million Egyptians live abroad, according to estimated official figures. But only 600,000 expats have registered to vote in the presidential elections.

Voters are required to register their names in voter lists using their national IDs or passports, the committee said.

The four-day expat vote ends on May 18 and the presidential vote is scheduled to open at home on 26-27 May.

The polls represent a milestone in the political roadmap set by the military-backed authorities following the ouster of President Mohammad Mursi last July.

Sisi, who orchestrated the military overthrow of Mursi, is widely expected to garner the highest amount of votes.

Mursi’s overthrow sparked a wave of militant attacks. The military-backed interim government launched heavy crackdown on Mursi’s supporters after the overthrow, killing and arresting thousands.

Authorities hope for a high turnout in the poll as a way to legitimize Mursi’s overthrow.

Mursi’s supporters, including his Muslim Brotherhood, say they’ll boycott the vote. The so-called anti-coup coalition issued a statement calling for a “revolutionary week” of protests against the elections.

The Muslim Brotherhood said it will not recognize the election results and vowed to continue protests until the fall of the military backed regime.

[With AP]