Egyptian Expatriates Start Voting on Referendum Today

Egyptian expatriates are set to start voting today 8 January on the new draft constitution until 12 January, 2014.

Medhat Idris, member of the Egypt’s Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC)’s general secretariat, said the commission will establish referendum committees for Egyptian expatriates, reported state-run Middle East News Agency (MENA). The committees will comprise of members of diplomatic and consular envoys as well as administrative personnel from Egypt’s embassies worldwide.

Nabil Salib, chair of the SEC, has banned campaigning for or against the referendum within 200 metres from the polling stations, MENA reported. Salib also banned anybody from being present within the same area except registered voters, journalists, and members of domestic and international civil society organisations who were authorised by the SEC to monitor the referendum.

Badr Abdelatty, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, announced on Tuesday that the ministry has established an operations room to supervise the voting process around the clock. All logistical arrangements regarding the diplomats and administrative personnel working in polling stations abroad have been finalised, Abdelatty added.

The spokesman said that an expert delegation from the European Union arrived in Egypt to oversee the referendum process. The delegation is expected to meet the deputy foreign minister this week. Abdelatty added that the ministry will organise a coordinating meeting with the SEC to prepare for the Egyptian expatriates’ voting.

Interim President Adly Mansour announced last week that the domestic portion of the referendum for the draft constitution will take place over two days on 14 and 15 January.

The draft constitution has been scrutinised by international human rights watchdog Amnesty International, which said that the text falls short of Egypt’s international human rights obligations despite fixing some deficiencies in the 2012 constitution. Other domestic civil society organisations have also criticised the text.

Some political parties have already announced their position in the upcoming constitutional referendum. The Salafi Al-Nour Party has announced its strong support for the draft, urging Egyptians to vote “yes” in the January poll. Other parties and movements, including the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Free Egyptians Party, and Al-Tayar Al-Shaaby (Popular Current) have also voiced support for the drafted amendments.

Former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh’s Misr Al-Qawia (Strong Egypt) Party urged voters to oppose the draft at the polls, criticising the autonomy the document grants to the military and the powers of the executive branch granted by the draft.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya both announced they will boycott the referendum.

The pro-Mohamed Morsi Anti-Coup Alliance called for nationwide protests this week in support of the 2012 constitution. The constitution was suspended after Morsi’s ouster on 3 July. Should the new draft pass, it will replace the 2012 constitution.