On Wednesday morning, polls opened for the more than 681,000Egyptians living abroad in 161 countries to vote on the constitution.
Eligible Egyptian expatriates will be able to vote until Sunday at the headquarters of diplomatic missions in their current nation of residence, including embassies and consulates, according to state-run Al-Ahram.
In a Wednesday afternoon statement, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman BadrAbdelatty said that so far voting was going well and that the ministry had not received any complaints.
Egyptians residing abroad gained the right to vote in 2011. In previous elections, expat voters were able to cast their ballot to the nearest embassy or consulate by mail, but new regulations require a voter to appear in person. This has caused problems with some Egyptians citizens overseas, especially when embassy or consulate locations were inconvenient to reach.
Sarah Ayman, an Egyptian engineer living in New Castle, England, said that it would take her over six hours to go to London, the nearest polling station. Ayman said she only became informed that she could not vote via mail two days ago.
“I’m upset that I won’t have the time to go vote,” said Ayman, “I support the referendum, and I want to show support for my government.”
Hany Girgus, an Egyptian software engineer living in Toronto, said that he would have to travel to Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, to vote. Coptic churches in Toronto were organising busses to take Egyptians to go vote over the weekend, said Girgus.
Abdelatty said that voting via mail was prohibited to prevent voter fraud and rigging, adding that establishing polling places outside of official diplomatic missions violated the local law in some countries.
Of the Egyptian expats eligible to vote, more than 40% reside in Saudi Arabia, said spokesman for the Supreme Electoral Commission Hisham Mokhtar.
Votes cast by expatriates will be counted from 13 to 15 January. Eligible voters residing in Egypt will go to the polls on 14 and 15 January to cast their ballots.