Egyptians abroad began voting on Friday 16 March, ten days before polls open at home in the Egyptian presidential elections. President Abdelfattah el-Sisi's only challenger is Mousa Mostafa Mousa, chairman of the Ghad Party. Voting in Egypt will commence on March 26, as announced by the National Electoral Authority (NEA) on January 8. Majalla spoke with Mahmoud Awadallah, President of the Union of Egyptians in Italy, to discuss this year's polling arrangements in Milan.
Can you talk to us about how polling was organised in Milan this year?
There are only two polling stations in the whole of Italy. The first is in the Egyptian Embassy in Rome, and of course there was only a small turn out there because the Egyptian community in Rome is much smaller than the community in northern Italy - which includes Milan, Turin, Bologna, Venice, Verona and Verona - whose polling station is in the Egyptian Consulate in Milan.
Four years ago, I was the representative of President Abdelfattah el-Sisi, but this year they chose someone else as the decision is in the hands of a newly appointed deputy of the People's Assembly who is responsible for the officials abroad. But this does not have an impact on the fact that we are all cooperating on the success of the electoral process because Egypt belongs to all of us and our love for the President means that any differences in opinion we have with any person, Member of Parliament, Minister or Consul General will not affect this. Even if we do not hold a position of leadership in the campaign, we are all behind the president.
Polling was organised very well but unfortunately the turnout was much less than four years ago where over 9000 Egyptians came to the consulate to vote.
What security measures were in place?
I was in charge of security four years ago but this year security was managed by the Italian police and it was organised in an excellent manner.
Did you encounter any problems from the Muslim Brotherhood?
We encountered one or two problems from the Muslim Brotherhood. One of the incidents involved several people who wanted to take photos from inside the polling station but of course this is not allowed, so when the Consul General refused them entry, they created problems and wanted to ruin the day.
Can you talk to us about the recent incident at the Egyptian Consulate in Milan?
Around two weeks ago we criticised the consulate in Milan because of an incident where Egyptians were left to queue up in the rain, thunder and snow to apply for their national identity cards. It was organised very badly and they should have heard in the news that it was forecast to snow and rain that week and therefore they should have set up a tent because the temperature that day was -7. People had come to apply for their national identity card so that they could vote in the elections and therefore the process should have been organised better than this. We wrote to the consulate and thankfully this time the organisation was much better and they set up tents to protect people while queuing up in the cold and rain.They also arranged for an accessible entrance for the disabled and elderly and an entrance for women.
What were the voting results?
This year 5050 people voted in Italy. There were 4996 votes for Abdulfattah el-Sisi, 54 for Mousa Mostafa Mousa and 13 votes were invalid.
In the last elections four years ago, 9590 people voted. 8704 voted for Abdelfattah el-Sisi, 301 voted for Hamdeen Sabahy and there were 60 invalid votes.