WASHINGTON — Voters in Egypt go to the polls Tuesday and Wednesday (Jan. 14-15) to vote on a constitution written by the military-backed interim government. It would replace the one adopted under the Islamist administration ousted last year. Egyptians living in other countries have already had their say on the document.
They lined up at consulates, like this one in Dubai. Egyptians living abroad voting yes or no on the country's new constitution.
At the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, the lines were shorter when Sherif Helmy and his family came to cast their ballots.
“Yes. I voted yes. I voted yes for many reasons," he said. "The constitution included many things that would give the right of speech to everyone.”
Sherif's 24-year-old son Kamal agreed with his dad, also voting yes, though he said getting to that point wasn't always easy.
“It gets kind of heated sometimes," he said. "Dinners have taken a wrong turn here and there but I think that comes with the territory.”
Serious going in, a persistent rain couldn't dampen their spirits on the way out.
It's the type of reaction that Egypt's ambassador to the U.S., Mohamed Tawfik, says is needed.
“This is about a new constitution but it’s also about a whole process. It’s about the way forward, and that’s why we’re listening very carefully," he said. "We want to know what the Egyptian people want.”
Just under two years ago many Egyptians came here with a sense of excitement about the future. This time they’ve come with a seriousness of purpose, while some are so upset, they haven’t come at all.
They tend to be those who oppose the military-led government's crackdown on demonstrations and free expression.
Safei Hamed, who is with Egyptians Worldwide for Democracy and Justice, is one of them.
"We have to express not only ourselves but express what Egyptians inside cannot say because they will end up of course being imprisoned or being killed," he said.
During five days of voting at the embassy in Washington, out of almost 6,900 eligible voters (from a region covering the states of Delaware to Florida), 844 cast ballots, 810 saying yes.
Click on voting sites for results:
As for what happens next, Eric Trager at the Washington Institute says the numbers in Egypt will be key.
“For both sides it’s really the turn-out more than the yes or no vote that will determine popular buy-in into this system,” he said.
Families like the Helmys hope it all works out for the best.