London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The first stage of voting in Egypt’s presidential election has witnessed unexpectedly high turnout, according to the Presidential Election Commission.
Egyptian expat voters across the world are voting for the next president between May 15 and 18, with a total of 144 embassies and consulates serving as polling stations in 124 countries.
According to Egyptian media, nearly 65,000 Egyptians worldwide voted on Thursday, the first day of expat voting. Popular former army chief Abdel Fattah El-Sisi is contesting the election against Nasserite rival Hamdeen Sabahy, with Sisi widely expected to win.
Egypt’s foreign ministry announced that preliminary figures indicate there has been a particularly high turnout in the Gulf states, with long queues outside polling stations reported.
Egypt’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Afifi Abdel Wahab, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The vote is now underway at 25 polling stations across the country. There is coordination with the relevant Saudi authorities to comprehensively protect the polling stations.”
“This reflects the fraternal nature of relations between the two countries, and demonstrates Saudi Arabia’s keenness to completely implement the roadmap. Saudi Arabia is the main backer for the success of these elections,” he added.
“We are now witnessing the fruition of democracy and this is a source of pride for all Egyptians, not just those in Saudi Arabia, but around the world. There has been an unexpectedly strong turnout, which reflects the great interest in this poll,” the ambassador said.
Egypt has streamlined the voting process from previous elections, with any Egyptian national being able to cast their ballot at any embassy or consulate without prior registration. The previous presidential elections had required Egyptians to register prior to elections, complicating the voting process.
According to local media, the Sabahy campaign’s overseas representatives claimed to have witnessed electoral violations, including Sisi supporters promoting the former defense minister’s campaign on site. Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told reporters that the ministry had not received any official complaints of electoral violations on Thursday, the first day of the vote.