x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

'Pride filled Egyptians' at early voting in Emirates

A handful of avid democrats showed up at embassy even before doors open at 8am to show support for a wide range of candidates.

ABU DHABI // About 2,000 Egyptians flocked to their embassy and consulate in Abu Dhabi on Friday to be among the first to vote in Egypt's presidential election. About the same number of people were expected to turn out in Dubai.

Sixty-one thousand Egyptians in the UAE have registered to vote, almost double the number who registered to vote during elections for the shura council, the upper house of parliament.

According to the Egyptian Ambassador to the UAE, Tamer Mansour, more than 320,000 Egyptians reside in the Emirates.

He expected about 32,000 of the registered voters to cast ballots in Dubai in the week-long vote, and 29,000 in Abu Dhabi.

He expected the busiest times to be mostly at the weekend, and that all 40 embassy staff would be on hand throughout the week to ensure the voting runs flawlessly.

The voting in the Emirates is to end at 8pm on Thursday. The voting in Egypt itself will be on May 23 and 24.

"This is the most important event in history," Mr Mansour said. "This is a result of the January 25 revolution."

Even before the doors opened yesterday, a handful of Egyptians were waiting from 8am outside the embassy in Abu Dhabi, eager to be the first ones let in.

Until noon, a steady flow of people arrived, some wearing the red, black and white of the national flag. Children appeared waving large Egyptian flags and others with the flag painted on their face.

"I came early because this is a historic event," Ahmed Farouk said as he filled his paper ballot. "I have never voted before; I have been living here for 17 years, outside of Egypt."

Ahmed Ezza, on his way to vote with a friend, said they had "dreamt of this day since the revolution started".

"That is why we came here so early," Mr Ezza said, who voted for Amr Moussa. "We voted for him, because he is the only one we know."

MH, a manager from Dubai, said he voted for Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, who left the Muslim Brotherhood last year after deciding to run for president.

He chose the candidate "because he seems the most realistic," he said, adding that he was reassured of his choice after Thursday night's first ever presidential debate in the history of the Arab world.

"Amr Moussa is a fragment of the old regime; we do not want anyone from the old regime to be in power again," he said. "Aboul Fotouh seems reasonable, and he treats all members of society equally. He does not side with one segment in society."

A voter who requested anonymity said he voted for Mr Moussa for fear of the Muslim Brotherhood ruling Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood has the largest number of seats in the lower house of parliament.

"And I feel he is from my generation and he is the right person who can start up Egypt again," the Moussa supporter said. He added that if Mr Moussa did not win, he hoped Hamdeen Sabahi, the leader of the Dignity Party, would.

MM and his wife, WM, voted for Mr Sabahi "because he is neutral, a true Egyptian," MM said. "He is not with the old regime or the Islamists."

An old couple leaving the embassy said they voted for Mohamed Morsy, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate.

"He has a programme that I hope the president would have," he said. "I also wanted the president's views to be in line with the parliament, so there are no clashes."

He said if he had not voted for Mr Morsy, he would have chosen Mr Aboul Fotouh.

"He was convincing in the debate [Thursday night]," he said. "But Morsy has a party supporting him, he is not independent. All we care about is that the new president has nothing to do with the old regime."

Even with differing political views, Egyptians were keen to stick around and turn the voting into a social gathering.

"Pride filled Egyptians today," Mr Mansour said. "They are really proud to pick their own president. This is something not usual for them. Everyone is looking at us to see what happens."

Mohamed Ahmed said that he and his family came to the embassy to "fulfill their duties as Egyptians".

"Just because we are out of Egypt, does not mean we should not vote," he said. "When we come to the embassy, it is as if we are in Egypt. In the end, we are Egyptians."

Mr Mansour said it was hard to guess who would win. He said votes abroad usually did not clash with voting in the country.

Some people who were turned down at the embassy for not registering online beforehand said they might head to Egypt to vote during the election days.

The embassy's head of communications said the UAE had the third-highest number of Egyptians registered to vote, after Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.