An Egyptian woman living abroad casting her vote in the first phase of the 2015 parliamentary elections, on Oct 18, 2015. REUTERS/
by Hend Kortam
CAIRO, Oct. 18 (Aswat Masriya) - The turnout of Egyptians voting abroad remains "moderate" well into the second and last day of voting, an assistant to Egypt's foreign minister told Aswat Masriya on Sunday.
Egyptians both inside and outside the country are now voting to elect members of the House of Representatives in the first phase of two phases which includes 14 provinces.
Assistant Foreign Minister Hamdy Loza said that the turnout rates will be announced later today. But even inside Egypt, the turnout rate had only hit 1.19 percent by midday, according to the Supreme Elections Commission (SEC) spokesman.
Voters abroad are heading to 139 diplomatic missions across the world to cast their votes.
In the Belgian capital Brussels only five people had turned up to vote by midday Sunday, an official at the Egyptian Embassy there told Aswat Masriya. He added that a dozen people had voted on Saturday in Belgium, which hosts 296 eligible voters.
Meanwhile the Egyptian ambassador in Saudi Arabia said less people turned out on Sunday morning compared to Saturday morning.
Similarly, the Egyptian ambassador in Kuwait said the turnout rate on Sunday is lower than that of Saturday but added that he expected more people to vote later in the day when temperatures drop.
Loza said he is currently coordinating with SEC to look into any complaints related to voting abroad but added that so far the process went "quietly" and "without any obstacles."
On Saturday, Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri issued orders to remove all "obstacles" to voting and called for providing assistance to those with special needs and the elderly.
Article 244 of the Egyptian constitution specifically addresses Egyptians abroad among other groups that must be represented in the incoming parliament.
"The State shall endeavor that youth, Christians, persons with disability and Egyptians living abroad be appropriately represented in the first House of Representatives to be elected after this Constitution is approved," it stipulates.
The first phase of voting includes over 27.4 million eligible voters. The second phase of voting inside and outside Egypt is slated for Nov 21 - 23.
Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country, has a population of 89.7 million, with at least 8 million of its nationals living abraod. Most of the Egyptian community abroad resides in Gulf states Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
In previous elections, Egyptians abroad complained that they had to register before they could vote. This time around, they only need to present their passports or national identity cards at embassies and consulates to vote.
On Saturday, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on Egyptians to "line up outside polling stations."
Addressing Egyptians abroad, Sisi said that their participation will show the world what the "new Egypt" looks like.
The elections represent the final step in Egypt's "roadmap to democracy", announced by then-Defence Minister Sisi in July 2013, following the military ouster of President Mohamed Mursi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood.
Designated a "terrorist organization" in December 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood, via its political arm the Freedom and Justice Party, had won over 40 percent of the 2011-12 parlaimentary seats in Egypt's bicameral People's Assembly.
Unable to officially contest the elections this year, the Brotherhood and other supporters have called for a boycott of the polls.
The 2015 unicameral House of Representatives, observers say, will witness the return of now defunct National Democratic Party (NDP) members, who dominated parliament under President Hosni Mubarak.
The NDP reaped a sweeping victory in the last elections held under Mubarak in 2010. Within months, a popular uprising against Mubarak and his regime ended his rule. The election results are often cited as one of the main sparks of the 2011 uprising.