Expatriates vote in the referendum for a draft constitution at the embassy in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Thousands of Egyptians thronged Egypt’s embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai early in the morning on Wednesday to vote on a new draft constitution.

Engineer Mohammad Magdi Mohamad Al Bakri, 55, said the new charter has returned Egypt to the Egyptians. “Our country was hijacked by a terrorist organisation for a year, but this referendum is a stepping stone on which a new, democratically elected civilian system will come about,” Al Bakri said.

Sami Ahmad Al Mougi, a manager at Gulf Falcons Property Management, echoed the same sentiments and expressed relief that Egypt has returned and Egyptians have recovered their dignity.

Around 67,000 out of nearly 400,000 Egyptians living and working in the UAE are registered to cast absentee ballots in Egypt’s embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai.

It is estimated that more than eight million Egyptians are working and living abroad, but nearly 700,000 are registered voters overseas.

Impeachment powers

Dr Ahmad Munib, 59, a consultant of information security management systems, said he was impressed by the charter which would promote equality among Egyptians. “For the first time, the draft constitution grants Egypt’s parliament the power to impeach the president with the approval of a two-thirds majority,” he said.

Under the draft charter, the Egyptian parliament can hold a confidence vote on the president and, if a two-thirds majority approves, trigger a referendum on whether there should be early presidential elections.

The draft charter has been agreed by a 50-member constituent assembly and the interim President, Adly Mansour.

The new charter will be put to a nationwide referendum in Egypt on January 14 and 15 to pave the way for presidential and parliamentary elections. It would replace the controversial constitution approved by referendum in 2012, seven months before former president Mohammad Mursi was overthrown.

Tareq Yasin, 55, a finance manager, said he favours the charter because it gives priority to education and healthcare. Yasin said he was confident that the referendum would not be rigged because Egyptians no longer fear their president. “The Egyptian people will overthrow any president they feel unqualified to rule them,” he said.

Best-ever charter

Ehab Hamouda, Egypt’s ambassador to the UAE, said that as an Egyptian citizen, he was extremely happy that the Egyptian community in the UAE was voting on the best-ever charter after the 1971 constitution.

“In the new charter, supremacy is given to Egypt, not to a group of people over another group,” he said.

The Egyptian ambassador said he was grateful to the UAE, led by the President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, for supporting Egypt to get out of its current crises and to achieve stability and security for all citizens.

Salah Al Hussaini, 60, a petroleum engineer, said it was the first time he had voted, citing the new charter and the new spirit that runs in Egypt which prompted him to participate in the democratic process.

Voting on the charter will last for five days until January 12 between 9am and 9pm at the embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai.

Interim leader Mansour will continue to have presidential powers until an elected successor is sworn in.

Egypt’s draft constitution was amended last month to allow a presidential election to be held before parliamentary polls, indicating a potential change in the army’s road map.

The road map unveiled when the military ousted Mursi said a parliamentary election should take place before the presidential poll. But the draft charter avoids saying which vote should run first, leaving the decision to Mansour.