x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Voting on constitution extended for Egyptians in UAE

Expatriates in the Northern Emirates feared votes would not reach embassy by deadline.

ABU DHABI // Overseas voting on the Egyptian constitution has been extended by 48 hours after complaints four days was not enough.

Tamer Mansour, Egypt's Ambassador to the UAE, said the decision to continue voting until 8pm tomorrow was made yesterday afternoon by the supreme committee for elections in Egypt.

"Some Egyptians in the Northern Emirates mailed their votes to the embassy and complained they need at least three to four days for the votes to reach. They wanted an extension," said Mr Mansour. "The committee received all these complaints and notified us of the extension."

By then, more than 8,000 had already gone to the embassy to vote, with about the same number visiting the consulate in Dubai.

Crowds and queues continued to grow throughout the day yesterday, with few arguments between supporters of the president, Mohamed Morsi, and liberals.

Salma, who voted against the constitution, said problems are arising because most families were split on the subject.

"We always fight in our family, but then we get over it," she said. "Because so many people have the same problem, they don't fight with others in the street. If they cannot change their relatives' minds by arguing, what will they accomplish arguing with others?"

The occasional disagreement did break out, but far fewer than when voting started last week.

"We have to thank the UAE officials for helping us and providing us with security," said Shoeab Abdelfattah, a counsellor at the embassy. "It helped to ensure that anyone who would have caused trouble didn't. There was no fighting."

But not everyone was happy. Hamouda Ahmed, 27, who lives in Abu Dhabi, was not allowed to vote.

"I am not registered, so now they will not let me vote," he said. "And so many people are like me."

Mr Ahmed arrived in the country three months ago and has not had an opportunity to register.

"They opened registration during the parliamentary elections and the presidential elections and that was it, they did not open it again."

He said as one of the thuwar, a term for those who took part in the uprising against Hosni Mubarak, he should have the right to cast his ballot.

"A lot of people cannot vote, why? We should be allowed."

Mr Abdelfattah said registration was not opened because of "limited time".

"We have had many complaints about this, they come and shout at the embassy, it takes us a long time to get them to understand why they cannot vote," he said.

Fifteen officials were flown in from the Egyptian foreign ministry to help the embassy's five staff.

"There are about eight million Egyptians living abroad and only half a million registered," Mr Abdelfattah said.

It had been thought opponents of the constitution would boycott the vote but the embassy said there was no evidence of this in the UAE.

"Boycotting was not going to be a problem here, Mr Mansour said. "They need to give their opinion."

One voter, Heba, said she was against the constitution but did not consider boycotting the ballot.

"A lot of us boycotted the presidential elections when we were left with two extremes to vote for, either Ahmed Shafiq or Morsi, but that led to nothing," she said.

She anticipated that because 48 per cent had voted for Shafiq and some of those who voted for Morsi were against the constitution, it would not be passed.

But Abu Mohamed disagreed. He voted for Shafiq, but said he was voting for the constitution.

"I like that workers and farmers get pensions and there is health insurance and education is free," he said.

"I do not like that Morsi gets so much power, or for any future president in Egypt. But the majority of [the constitution] is good."

osalem@thenational.ae