CAIRO: The decision to allow Egyptians living abroad to vote in presidential elections in 2011 can only be judged when it’s implemented, opposition members said, adding that without a set of other reforms the decision would be meaningless.
Minister of Manpower and Migration Aisha Abdel Hady announced Sunday that Egypt will permit citizens living abroad to vote in the 2011 presidential election, according to state-run daily, Al-Ahram.
Abdel Hady said during a five-day visit to Italy that Egyptians abroad should have the total right to vote as Egyptian citizens. She added that this decision will be implemented based upon instructions given to her by President Hosni Mubarak.
The ministry in Cairo, however, couldn’t confirm Abdel-Hady’s announcement to Daily News Egypt.
Former IAEA chief Mohamed El Baradei has led a call for seven demands for change and democracy through the National Association for Change (NAC). In addition to allowing Egyptian expats to vote, ElBaradei also called for judicial oversight of elections and an end to the emergency law — in an attempt to guarantee free, transparent elections.
Up until this recent announcement by Abdel Hady, the current regime hadn’t shown any signs of considering the demands, which has sparked wide criticism from opposition groups.
“What’s important is that this decision is implemented on the ground,” General Coordinator of the NAC Abdel-Galil Mostafa told Daily News Egypt. “It’s not about responding to our demands, it’s about having free and fair elections and giving candidates equal opportunities to run in the presidential race.”
“This step came very late,” Al-Ghad Party President Ayman Nour told Daily News Egypt. “It has no value without the execution of our primary demands for free and fair elections.”
Opposition powers spearheaded by the NAC, including the Kefaya Movement for Change and Al-Ghad, said they’ll boycott the parliamentary elections because the government has refused to respond to their demands.
Kefaya General Coordinator Abdel-Halim Qandil criticized the fact that the parliamentary elections were not included in the minister’s recent announcement, noting that most Egyptians abroad don’t possess electoral cards.
“Most Egyptians abroad don’t have electoral cards, and until now the government hasn’t allowed Egyptians to vote using only their National ID,” Qandil told Daily News Egypt.
“[The government’s recent] decision has value in the case that we have free and fair elections, but with the current status, we are talking about a hypothetical situation in mock elections,” Qandil added.
“This decision requires a change in the electoral laws, which is decided by the People’s Assembly and the Shoura Council,” Rifaat Al-Saeid, head of the Tagammu Party, told Daily News Egypt. “Aisha Abdel-Hady doesn’t have the jurisdiction to make this decision.”
Al-Saeid added that no one in Egypt has access to an accurate count of all Egyptians currently living abroad, much less those Egyptians’ names.
“The efficiency and transparency of the elections needs to be guaranteed,” Al-Saeid said.
Al-Wafd MP Mohamed Moustafa Sherdy hailed the minister’s decision, while expressing certain reservations.
“We are very glad [this decision has been made], but we would have also liked it to include parliamentary elections” Sherdy told Daily News Egypt.
However, Sherdy added that it would be difficult to include parliamentary elections in this decision, because they depend on different constituencies and logistics which prevent Egyptians abroad from voting.
“The Egyptians abroad are a voting power, as there are at least one million of them,” Sherdy said.
“But we want the Egyptians abroad to be able to vote electronically, and a guarantee that their votes [won’t be] forged and are going to be accepted [by the government],” he added.