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Egypt to amend constitution to extend voting rights to citizens abroad

Egypt will amend its constitution [Al Ahram report, in Arabic] to allow citizens living abroad to vote in parliamentary elections, according to a Wednesday report by state-run media outlet Al Ahram. Chairman of the High Commission for Elections [official website], Judge Abdel Moaz Ibrahim, suggested amending Article 39 [Al Ahram report] of the constitutional declaration to allow for voting at embassies and consulates to be supervised by diplomats instead of judges. The announcement comes after last week's Administrative Court ruling that Egyptians living abroad must be allowed to vote. The decision came in a lawsuit filed by a group of Egyptian expatriates, including famous Egyptian writer and activist Ahdaf Soueif [personal website] against the High Commissioner of Elections, the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior [official websites]. Raafat Roheim, a New York-based Egyptian activist said that after the ousting of president Hosni Mubarak [JURIST news archive] in January, interest in voting amongst Egyptian expats began to swell. Egyptians will begin voting on November 28 in the first elections held since the end of Mubarak's 30-year reign.

The country's upcoming election has resulted in a variety of legislative and court activity. Earlier this week, Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) [NYT backgrounder] announced that they will soon ratify a law that bans anyone found guilty of corruption [JURIST report] from participating in politics. The law has been criticized for its potential for abuse [JURIST report]. Last month, an Egyptian court overturned a ban [JURIST report] that prohibited presidential hopeful Ayman Nour [BBC profile] from forming a political party and also prohibited the formation of the Islamic-based political party Al-Gama'a al-Islamiya [party website]. The decision will allow political parties previously banned because of their religious foundations to participate in the upcoming November parliamentary elections. The SCAF recently amended election rules to ban the use of religious slogans in campaigning [JURIST report], stating that "[e]lectoral campaigns based on the use of religious slogans or on racial or gender segregation are banned," and adding that violators could be fined and face up to three months in jail.

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