Jurists: Denying Egyptians Living Abroad Right to Vote Unconstitutional
Jurists: Denying Egyptians Living Abroad Right to Vote Unconstitutional
Thursday, October 6,2011 13:22
By Ahmed Morsi

A number of jurists and legal advisers have expressed concern that failure to enable Egyptians abroad to vote in the upcoming elections is both unjustifiable and unacceptable, and that all the pretexts cited in this context can be refuted and dealt with, if there is a genuine desire to do so.

Counsellor Mohammed Fouad Jadallah, Vice Premier and member of the Board of Trustees of the Revolution, told IkhwanWeb that there was no constitutional or legal excuse to deny Egyptians abroad their political rights, and that any such denial is a violation of these rights, pointing out that it is quite possible to deal with and overcome any obstacles to their voting in parliamentary elections.
Mr Jadallah stressed that it is not true that the matter of whether Egyptians abroad should vote is a sovereign decision, and that it is the prerogative of the president of the committee supervising the elections. Further, he pointed out that it is possible to amend Article 88 of the Constitutional Declaration, which commits the judicial supervision of elections, by adding a clause allowing the holding of elections under the supervision of an ambassador or consul.
“There are currently more than ten million people who live abroad and have the right to vote; they represent 20% ??of the electorate. It is totally unacceptable that they would be prevented from voting. This is no insignificant proportion of the Egyptian people," Mr Jadallh said, adding that there are concerns about the unconstitutionality of electronic voting. “But the solution here is that representatives of those Egyptian expatriates can vote on their behalf; or they may have their own Egyptian Expatriates Centres. Alternatively, voting cards can be posted to them; and they can use those to vote in relevant area offices and centres,” he explained.
Dr. Hossam Issa, a law professor at Ain Shams University, called upon the military to urgently organize the vote of Egyptians abroad, expressing his surprise and astonishment at the Egyptian Cabinet’s statement yesterday, because it makes no mention of the dates of elections for the People's Assembly and Shura Council.
He stressed that there simply is no excuse for restricting the vote, because Egyptians abroad have offered to cast their votes in five constituency centres to which they would travel by plane and bear the cost of the judges’ travel to said centres, and that both voting and counting would take place before the judges just like all countries of the world.
Dr. Issa also stressed that if the elections were conducted without the participation of Egyptians abroad, they would be unconstitutional, may be challenged and become null and void for violation of the principle of equality; and pointed out that the presidential elections could be held abroad two weeks ahead of schedule, in which case any number of judges can sent.
Furthermore, Dr.Yousri Al-Azabawi, researcher at the Centre for Political and Strategic Studies of Al-Ahram, stated that the omission, in the Cabinet statement yesterday, of the subject of voting right for Egyptians abroad highlights the unwillingness of those involved in the affairs of the country - whether the military or the Cabinet - to give Egyptians abroad the right to vote, and that the whole matter depends on the real desire to grant them that right - and where there is a will, all obstacles can be overcome.
Dr. Al-Azabawi explained that those against expatriates’ voting put through several arguments, e.g. the financial cost, and this is debatable since Egyptians abroad are willing to bear the cost of casting their votes, noting that it is estimated that Egyptians abroad sent home more than $12 billion in the period from January to September 2011.
Moreover, Dr. Al-Azabawi stressed that there are no constitutional or legal problems that could bar expatriates voting, pointing out that the terms of Article 7 of the Constitutional Declaration refer to the principle of equality, while Article 12 was abolished – it confirmed the right of Egyptians abroad to vote. He criticised the reluctance of some of those in power who fear that voices of Egyptians abroad would go to a particular presidential candidate they do not approve.
He pointed to the experiences of some Arab countries, like Iraq, which allowed the holding of elections at the headquarters of embassies under the supervision of officials there, and to the experience of Algeria, which allocated 10 seats in the parliament for its citizens abroad. “Those can be studied, and we can select the approach that suits us,” he concluded.