More than 100,000 Egyptian expats cast first ever ballots


More than 100,000 Egyptians living abroad have for the first time ever voted in a parliamentary election by casting their ballots at embassies and consulates, the government said on Saturday.

The voting of Egyptian expatriates comes ahead of a three-round parliamentary election that starts across Egypt on Monday.

The regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak had constantly maintained a ban depriving millions of Egyptians living abroad from the right to vote in any election.

The trend was overturned by an administrative court in October and earlier this month Egypt’s justice ministry agreed to a constitutional amendment to allow expats to vote in their countries of residence.

“More than 100,00 Egyptians have cast their votes today (Friday) at Egyptian embassies and consulates and the voting took place in good conditions,” the government said on its Facebook page.

According to Ahram Online, the English-language website of the government daily al-Ahram, only 300,000 Egyptians living abroad -- out of an estimated eight million -- had registered to vote. Egypt has a total population of 80 million.

One third of those registered live in Saudi Arabia, Ahramonline said.

According to the report, Egyptians abroad could download a ballot paper from a government website --- www.elections2011.eg -- and mail it or deliver it in person to embassies in their country of residence.

But one woman, quoted by Ahramonline, said the government website was not working on Thursday “and she was concerned she would be unable to vote before the polls close on Saturday.”

But the statement published on the government’s website Saturday said that the expats voting will be extended until Sunday evening.

Several political parties and politicians had repeatedly demanded that Egyptians in the diaspora be allowed to take part in the vote.

The parliamentary elections that get underway on Monday will be the first polls since a popular uprising ended Mubarak's 30-year-rule in February.

On Friday the military rulers decided to extend the voting inside Egypt to two days, instead of one as authorities try to get more people to cast their ballots.

The election was called into doubt after a week of bloody protests demanding the ruling military to step down.

Some parties have called for a delay in the election, but others, such as the influential Muslim Brotherhood movement's Freedom and Justice Party, have insisted it take place on time.

The Islamists expect to win the most votes in the next parliament, which will help appoint a committee to draft a new constitution.

Egypt’s 27 provinces have been divided into three rounds for the voting, with a run-off one week after each round.