Egypt Today reporter interviews Deputy Foreign Minister for African Affairs, Ambassador Hamdy Louza at his office-  Photo courtesy of Louza's media office. Egypt Today reporter interviews Deputy Foreign Minister for African Affairs, Ambassador Hamdy Louza at his office- Photo courtesy of Louza's media office.

Egypt’s diplomatic ties rely on expatriate vote: Amb. Hamdy Louza

Sat, Jan. 13, 2018
CAIRO – 13 January 2018: Egypt’s Foreign Ministry has played a vital role in coordination with Egypt’s National Election Authority (NEA) and other concerned authorities to produce a comprehensive national vision for the electoral process, Deputy Foreign Minister for African Affairs, Ambassador Hamdy Louza, stressed during an exclusive interview with Egypt Today Saturday.

Louza manifested that Egypt’s international diplomacy relies on two elements; expatriates’ voting and international monitoring of the Egyptian presidential elections.

He stressed that the historical Egyptian-Sudanese relationship is brotherly and strong, adding that both countries’ politicians realize the importance of maintaining bilateral ties.

The full interview is included below.

In regard to the upcoming presidential election due to take place in March, what exactly is the foreign ministry’s role during the electoral process?

I’d like to state that the Egyptian Foreign Ministry has played a key role in the electoral process in coordination with the NEA and the concerned authorities. The NEA’s decisions which were announced on January 8 aim to regulate the presidential election process. Therefore, the Foreign Ministry is responsible for two elements; expatriates’ voting and international monitoring of the Egyptian presidential elections.


What are the procedures that the Foreign Ministry implemented to regulate expatriates’ voting? How many ballot stations does Egypt have abroad?

There are 139 sub-ballot stations in 124 countries across the world. Upon instructions given to embassies and consulates, the Foreign Ministry has informed all foreign missions abroad about the necessary procedures that will allow expatriates to easily vote in the presidential elections.

Logistic and human support is available so that our foreign missions will successfully be able to organize the voting process. They have been provided with electronic scanners so that the voters’ IDs and passports can be quickly scanned. Moreover, in coordination with the NEA, a training workshop will be held for the employees and persons facilitating this process.

An operation room will be designated in the Foreign Ministry headquarters to monitor and follow the electoral process and solve any possible problems that may occur in regard to expatriates voting.

What’s the foreign ministry’s role in regards to the elections being monitored by regional and international organizations?

Our embassies provide the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the names of concerned NGOs interested in monitoring the electoral process in Egypt within the regulations set by the NAE. The interested NGOs have to submit a request expressing their willingness to monitor the elections before January 15 to the NEA.

It’s noteworthy that dozens of regional and international NGOs have taken part in previous elections in Egypt such as the Arab League, the European Union, African Union, COMESA, Community of Sahel-Saharan States and International Organization of Francophone states. However, some NGOs may not take part in this electoral process because many prepared their annual agenda without seeking approval for their participation in the Egyptian elections in the first quarter of 2018.

How can you follow up on regional and international NGOs’ monitoring of the elections?

The Foreign Ministry plays a significant role in guaranteeing international participation in the elections through preparing and coordinating with the regional and international missions so that we provide them with all logistic capabilities to ensure their work will be efficiently conducted. In coordination with the NEA and security apparatuses, we work on issuing them the necessary permissions to enter ballot stations.

Do you have a back-up plan in case of having too large an accumulation of people at the Egyptian embassies abroad during the electoral process?

According to the rules, each voter enters the electoral committee where their name is registered. This can easily be found out via scanning his ID or passport. This happens inside and outside Egypt.

The scanner that the Ministry of Communication and Planning provided us with can easily recognize each voter’s electoral committee’s location and number. In addition, Egyptians can also find out about their electoral committees and ballot stations via the official website of the NEA.
If a technical error occurs with the scanner or the website, then we will face a problem like what happened earlier in Kuwait when the scanner could not read the citizens’ data and failed to connect to the central electoral database.

The Foreign Ministry enjoys expertise in solving such technical issues and will easily be able to dissipate any problem emerging during the electoral process.

Expatriates will vote one week before the voting inside Egypt, so this may help the NEA to exclude the names which already casted their votes abroad.

I hope Egyptian media outlets cover expatriates’ vote well because they are really interested in what’s taking place inside the country. Usually, the media should focus their news stories on any election at least one week in advance, especially because the expatriate vote takes place one week before the vote in Egypt.

Where is the Egyptian largest voting bloc abroad?

The largest numbers of Egyptians abroad exist in Saudi Arabia; Riyadh and Jeddah, then Kuwait comes and the UAE and Qatar.

Can Egyptian expatriates cast their vote electronically or via emails?

There is no such possibility at the time being. Such procedures may not lead to a perfect electoral process. Each citizen has to go him or herself to the ballot station to cast his vote to ensure integrity.

Are there any other alternatives in case some voters face difficulties in casting their votes?

The NEA set the voting days to be during weekends; Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so all expatriates will have a chance to reach their electoral committees to cast their votes. In some Arab countries, Egyptians may be allowed to leave work for some hours in order to cast their vote in the elections.

How is the Egyptian-Sudanese relationship important amid some media attempts to drive a wedge between Cairo and Khartoum?

The Egyptian-Sudanese relations are historic and brotherly. Some problems may emerge between neighboring countries anywhere in the world, but a little political awareness can retain good ties between Cairo and Khartoum. We are keen on not breaching this relationship. We have stressed that our historical ties with Sudan will remain strong.

How does Egypt look at the Red Sea and the riparian countries?

For many years, we have concerns over the situation in the Red Sea region. Many countries also have concerns over the piracy phenomenon in the Bab al-Mandab area and on the coast of Somalia. All the Red Sea coastal states must cooperate to stop this phenomenon which has already receded in recent months.

Moreover, the Suez Canal economic zone is expected to witness more international traffic and prosperity so the Red Sea also will have further political and economic significance. The Red Sea countries can also cooperate together to establish tourist projects and economic facilities. Yemen can play an important role in this regard after it gains stability and security.

Recently, Egypt has boosted ties with African countries. How can you evaluate the Egyptian-Eritrean relationship?

The Egyptian-African ties have never been cut. We may have had some difficult times due to domestic issues but our African bonds have never been cut.

Egypt received and welcomed the Eritrean president a few days ago and we expect to receive the Ethiopian Prime Minister soon. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry also met with his Tanzanian counterpart last week. Thus, Egyptian-African ties exist on all levels.

Egypt has contacted the Nile Basin countries and the countries which signed the Entebbe Agreement. Is there any coordination with these countries to preserve Egypt’s historic Nile rights?

In general, Egypt is always in contact with the African nations and the Nile Basin countries in particular. All the mentioned countries realize the Nile’s importance to Egypt as the only source of water. Some countries signed the Entebbe Agreements. Tanzania for example did not mean any harm to Egypt’s interests when it signed the agreement, but it has its own regional and international principles in signing such agreements. Tanzania and other countries wish to reach a consensus with the Nile Basin states over the Nile River issue.

What’s your message to our brotherly African countries?

The Egyptian stance towards the African continent is stable and unchangeable. Egypt always seeks to boost cooperation with other countries to accomplish economic integration and build political relationships with greater cooperation and consultations against mutual threats such as terrorism in the Red Sea, the African Horn and the Sahel-Saharan region.

In the past, African countries have counted on Egypt and they can continue to rely on Egypt in the future. The Egyptian private sector has recently headed to Africa to increase Egyptian investments in African countries and the Foreign Ministry has encouraged this move.
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