Overseas Voting in Egypt Presidential Elections

While elections are an important step in Egypt’s democratic transition, other signs of progress must be demonstrated before Egypt can be said to be on a path toward democracy.

Washington, D.C. – A record number of Egyptians living overseas turned out to vote for Egypt’s next president between May 15 and 18. Preliminary results put the number of ballots cast at approximately 314,000. By comparison, in 2012, an estimated 224,000 overseas voters turned out during the first round of presidential elections—including more than 11,000 from the United States—and approximately 300,000 overseas ballots were cast during the subsequent run-off round between Muhammad Morsi and Ahmad Shafiq.

An overwhelming majority of this year’s valid votes—94.5%—were cast in favor Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who remains viewed by many as the likely winner of the elections. Candidate Hamdeen Sabahi received just over 17,000 votes, or about 5.5%, compared with 15.6% in the first round of voting in 2012. Approximately 75,400 ballots cast abroad came from Saudi Arabia, accounting for nearly a quarter of worldwide votes; about 93% of these votes favored Sisi. In the United States, roughly 17,800 Egyptians submitted ballots this year, with about 96% favoring Sisi. On Friday, Sabahi had alleged that a number of violations had occurred at polling places, including Egyptian consulates in the United States. Approximately 681,000 expatriate Egyptians are eligible to vote worldwide.

Egyptians living in-country will have the opportunity to vote on May 26 and 27, with results expected sometime between June 1 and 5. During the second round of the 2012 elections, more than 26 million people turned out to vote. Despite candidate Sisi’s call for an “unprecedented” turnout in this year’s elections, statements from revolutionary groups, like the April 6 Youth Movement, and from the Islamist current, including the Muslim Brotherhood, suggest that millions are planning to boycott.

The significant increase in voter turnout from 2012 shows that despite the repeated disappointments over the past three years, Egyptians still want to engage in and influence political developments in their country. Nonetheless, while elections are an important step in Egypt’s democratic transition, other signs of progress—such as the release of activists, journalists, and political prisoners; respect for free speech and press; and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms—must be demonstrated before Egypt can be safely said to be on a firm path toward democracy.

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The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of democratic transitions in the Middle East through analysis, advocacy, and action.