Exuberant Egyptians queue in UAE to vote for leader

Queues snaked round the grounds outside the Egyptian embassy in the capital, with tents erected to provide space for voters.
Ganaa holds her baby Yossef in a long line of voters at the Egyptian embassy, while also holding a poster of Abdel Fattah El Sisi. Delores Johnson / The National
Ganaa holds her baby Yossef in a long line of voters at the Egyptian embassy, while also holding a poster of Abdel Fattah El Sisi. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // Egyptians in the UAE turned out in their thousands on Thursday to cast votes in their country’s presidential election.

Queues snaked round the grounds outside the Egyptian embassy in the capital, with tents put up to provide shade for voters.

Many of the 5,389 voters waved flags and posters, making no secret of their preferences, as Abu Dhabi Police watched over proceedings.

There were only two options on the ballot paper: former army chief Abdel Fattah El Sisi, or leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi.

Voting comes nearly a year after the military overthrew president Mohammed Morsi.

“After one year of waiting for a new president we are here now to vote,” said Hassan Ali, who has lived in the UAE for nine years.

“It was very easy. There is shade and air conditioning, and although there are big lines I was in and out in 15 minutes.

“I wasn’t expecting this number of people. It is a working day but it is unbelievable how many there are.

“I think most people are voting for Sisi. I think that is the right choice. I think there is a good plan for Egypt.”

“This is one of the most important days,” said voter Anwar Abdulla, 29, an IT worker who was born in the UAE. “This is a democracy and this is our message to the world: we are here, we have democracy and we can make our voices heard.

Nour Shinawi, 36, an operations manager for an oilfield services company, said: “This is a very important day – it is the difference between the old and new time.

“Even the behaviour of the Egyptians is changing, we are even respecting the queue system. This is something new for us,” he joked.

“It is our future, and the future for our children. I don’t know who will be the next president but at least it will come from a free and correct election.”

It was a sentiment shared by many others, including Ihab Hamouda, the Egyptian ambassador.

“For the first time Egyptian people are choosing their president according to their will,” Mr Hamouda said. “For the first time, we have free elections. It’s not affected by any influence of the actual president.

“The president of Egypt now is temporary for a period, and all of Egypt … respect him very much because he took the responsibility in a very critical time in our history.

“They are willing to have a new leader to Egypt, to raise the name of Egypt again, and to make a better future to the country itself.”

He estimated about 5,389 Egyptians turned up at the embassy on Thursday to vote.

All together, Mr Hamouda said, turnout for this election will be about 35 per cent higher in the UAE than it was for the draft constitution elections held this year.

By voting, Egyptians can help complete their country’s “vision and roadmap”, said Fatima Mahiti, 55, who has lived in the UAE for two years.

“My voice is very important,” Ms Mahiti said. “This is such an important thing and we want to have the president that we want.”

Polling stations at the Abu Dhabi embassy and Egyptian consulate in Dubai will be open from 9am to 9pm until May 18.

Voters must present an Egyptian ID card or valid passport when arriving at the polling stations and all votes must be cast in person.

Voting in the UAE takes place before polling station open in Egypt on May 26 and 27.

ksinclair@thenational.ae

nbakhsh@thenational.ae

Published: May 15, 2014 04:00 AM

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