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Expatriate Egyptians begin voting in referendum

Thousands of expatriate Egyptians began casting their votes Wednesday in the constitutional referendum at 138 embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions worldwide. 

Taking place from 9 am to 9 pm, the overseas voting process is due to last until January 12, ahead of Egypt’s national referendum, scheduled for January 14 and 15.

Monitoring the situation abroad, the Foreign Affairs Ministry issued statements on Wednesday claiming that the voting process is free and fair, taking place “normally” and without delay.

The ministry clarified that voters may only cast their ballots by direct personal attendance — with valid passports or national ID cards — and not by mail.

Just over 680,000 eligible Egyptian voters abroad are reported to have registered for participation in the five-day referendum. Out of over six million Egyptians living abroad, around 70 percent reside in other Arab countries, especially the Gulf.

Following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in early July, the interim government suspended the Egyptian Constitution of 2012, which was largely formulated by the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies.

During a referendum in December 2012, the Constitution was approved by a low-voter turnout rate of some 33 percent, out of which around 64 percent of voters endorsed it.

The 2012 Constitution has since been amended by the committee of 50, which started work in July with no representation from the Muslim Brotherhood.

State-controlled media has been promoting a “yes” vote on the draft constitution via television, print media, radio, and nationwide billboards.

On the other hand, the Brotherhood and their Islamist “Anti-Coup Alliance” have declared that they will boycott this referendum, and are calling on Egyptians — at home and abroad — to do the same.

Although they are not aligned with the Anti-Coup Alliance, the (liberal) April 6 Youth Movement, and the (centrist Islamist) Strong Egypt Party have taken stances against the draft constitution following the recent detention of several of their members. 

Nevertheless, this draft constitution is expected to pass by a large majority.

Both the 2012 Constitution and the new draft constitution grant the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces sweeping powers.