The Egyptian expat vote was just as important as the voting inside the country.
Implications of the expatriate vote in the presidential elections of 2014 need an explanation based on the final indications of the vote.
The first implication was manifested in the Egyptians’ deep attachment to their homeland. Those who have the right to vote were keen on standing up for this right after they had gained it by the power of law. The expatriate right to vote was one of the 25 January Revolution’s gains which paved the way for Egyptians in the country or abroad to participate.
Whether the reason for being abroad is work, study or immigration, Egyptian expatriates were eager to determine their country’s future. The harsh conditions of living abroad, seeking to earn a living or pursuing studies, were not obstacles in the way of their participation.
The indications of the vote by expats revealed the importance of the concept of “a president” and his prestige and weight in Egyptian culture after the revolution. The concept remains essential despite the change in the whole political scene after the revolution as we not only see citizens breaking the barriers of fear to participate in the political process, but also inventing new ways of mass protests.
Although Egyptians overthrew two presidents within three years, the “president” as an idea remained standing amid all these changes in the public awareness as a symbol of national unity and the progress of the state. This time, Egyptians will pin their hopes on the president to regain security and stability after two revolutions. Moreover, he should be ready to prepare Egypt for a better future and possess the leadership qualities necessary for running a country like Egypt.
The preliminary signs of the expatriate vote showed the priority Egyptians have given to presidential elections over the constitutional referendum. That is why the number of those who participated in the constitution balloting was only a third of those who voted in the presidential election.
This issue raises a few questions: do Egyptians realise that the president is the one person able to implement the constitution’s articles on the ground? Do they know that the president is the one who will oblige institutions to respect the constitution? Do they realise that a president in power is more important than the constitution from the point of view of the powers he can exercise? Furthermore, there is the issue of the connection between the presidency and a certain person known to Egyptians. Seeing him in a difficult time playing a critical role may push Egyptians to vote, while in the referendum this personal element was not there.
All these questions and issues are directly related to the motive to vote in the presidential elections in a way that exceeds the referendum turnout.
According to expatriates, regaining the state’s strength was the main motive for voting because the concept of a state is pivotal in Egyptian political culture. The state is the source of security and protection against inside and outside threats. It is obvious that regaining the state is a top priority for Egyptians and it is related to achieving security and stability after three years of the state’s relinquished authority and the absence of the rule of law. For this reason, expatriates queued to vote for Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi considering him the saviour of the state, the people and national unity. They think that the state’s institutions will be ready to cooperate with him as he tries to realise his political vision and solve the problems facing Egypt.
The apparent discrepancy between the official and unofficial estimation of the number of Egyptians abroad reflects a lack of official data about their number. This was due to long-standing negligence towards expatriates by the previous administrations. For example, embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions were not keen on communicating with the Egyptian communities abroad or facilitating their addition to the official voting data. We hope that Egypt follows the example of the countries that care for their citizens abroad and considers them a source of power and wealth.
Moreover, the results of the expatriate votes clearly showed a failure by the Muslim Brotherhood and the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy in their campaigns to boycott the elections. Brotherhood propaganda was unsuccessful in playing down the importance of the elections or distracting attention away from this event and preventing the public from voting.
Muslim Brotherhood threats proved fake again despite the international connections they enjoy and their effective media coverage. Still, Egyptians in and out of the country realised the Brotherhood’s double standards and how far they could go to regaining power and authority.
The expatriate voting results reflect the ability of Egyptians to learn from their mistakes and to move forward. For instance, many Egyptian expatriates admitted that they were voting this time to correct the mistake they made when they voted for the Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi in 2012 who ultimately became president. No doubt this is an indication that Egyptians are able to practice self-criticism as they grasped the lesson. Now they have a more developed political awareness. It is clear that the choice in this election between Al-Sisi and his rival Hamdeen Sabahi was much better than in 2012, as both do not threaten the unity of Egyptians and would work on regaining the civil state.
Some Arab revolutions, especially in Syria and Libya, may have played a crucial role in motivating Egyptians to vote and in making them realise the necessity of building state institutions. Egypt wanted to avoid an ill-fated future and the swamp of terrorism, bearing in mind the Arab countries that already suffer from chaos. It is true that Egypt now suffers from terrorist acts carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood, but it is capable of facing up to them. And as it builds its institutions, terrorism will diminish.