x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Egyptians enrol hoping they can cast vote from Emirates

A group of Egyptian expatriates is reaching out to other people from their homeland, urging them to vote in the upcoming elections.

The volunteer Alamir Al Sheikh, right, helps Mohamed Afifi to register for the coming Egyptian elections. Antonie Robertson / The National
The volunteer Alamir Al Sheikh, right, helps Mohamed Afifi to register for the coming Egyptian elections. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // Egyptian volunteers are helping their compatriots to register online for the coming election, three weeks after a Cairo court ruled expatriates should be allowed to vote.

The democratic vote will elect the first parliament since the former president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in the uprising that rocked Egypt.

But Cairo has not yet determined whether voting can take place outside of national boundaries.

"We call it the rise of the dead, after 30 years, to claim our rights," said Alamir Al Sheikh, a planning manager in Dubai who is among about 15 volunteers on the project.

"We will never allow our rights to be taken again. It is our dream to have fair elections. It is time to give Egypt and its children a better future."

Mr Al Sheikh has set up a Facebook page in Arabic, called Saaed (help), which invites people to register at the Egyptian Club in Dubai. The page was created days after last month's crucial ruling on the long-standing demand for suffrage.

The right to vote abroad was a key demand of demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square, which was the focal point of the Egyptian revolution that began on January 25.

The volunteers in the UAE are registering citizens every day between 7pm and 10pm until Saturday.

They are hoping to register at least half of the more than 320,000 Egyptians in the Emirates, although there were only about 25 voters on Sunday, the first day of the campaign. The group is also registering Egyptians in Abu Dhabi and Ajman.

"Not everyone knows how to use the internet," said Rasha Owais, a volunteer and initiator of the group.

"A lot of Egyptians here work as labourers in shisha cafes and restaurants. Either they do not have access to a laptop or they aren't tech savvy. It is the right of Egyptians to vote, so why not use it?"

Voters must give details including names, and national ID and passport numbers for an application.

Volunteers feed the information on to the website, elections2011.eg. They are also leaving the forms at restaurants and other workplaces.

"If we don't have enough voters registered online the government will not send judges to oversee the process in the UAE," said Ms Owais.

The three-phase elections begin on November 28, but the interim government has not yet said how Egyptians abroad can vote.

"We don't have any directives about the voting system," said Tamer Mansour, the Egyptian ambassador to the UAE. "They [the foreign ministry] are now working on it."

Mr Mansour said diplomatic missions could oversee the process if the government made a decision in time. Volunteers said they would do what it took to have voting in the UAE.

"We [told the government] that as volunteers we could also help the consulate and the embassy supervise the elections," said Ms Owais. "It is a challenge but allowing us to vote is not an option. It is a binding court order."

Sadeq Mohammed, an office worker who has registered, said he believed he would be able to vote.

"And if not, I did what I have to do but I will fight for my right," Mr Mohammed said. "I registered because after the revolution, I feel we got back our country and my vote will count.

"It is very important to vote after Mubarak's overthrow as we draw a new future for Egypt."