Overseas Absentee Voting Turnout in the Middle East
OAV Turnout Doubles in Riyadh, Alkhobar
Dinan Arana & Rachel Salinel, Arab News

ALKHOBAR/DUBAI, 1 May 2007 – Voter turnout both in Alkhobar and Riyadh dramatically doubled on Friday night compared to the previous week, the Philippine Embassy reported.

Philippine Ambassador Antonio Villamor said that the total turnout now has reached 2,965 voters in Riyadh, thanks to the 630 voters who showed up last Friday at the embassy. This is more than a one hundred percent increase in the turnout of 1,403 voters on the first week.

In Alkhobar, the total turnout last week was 941, more than double than on first week figure of 652. The running total at the end of Friday in Alkhobar was at 1,593 voters.

The embassy also started on its get out and vote campaign with the launching of a campaign poster which asks, “Bumoto ka na ba?” (Have you voted?)

Despite the increased turnout, it is very low number considering the total number of registrants. The result in Alkhobar is only 5 percent of the 29,113 total registrants. The result in Riyadh is also 5 percent from its total registrants of 58,243.

Filipino community leaders in Riyadh are trying to help the embassy woo registered OFWs to vote early and avoid the rush during the last two weeks.

Led by Bong Amora, Francis Oca, and Alex Bello, the group distributed leaflets and posters to OFWs in Batha to promote the “Go Out and Vote” campaign.

They were surprised to hear that some OFWs had not even learned that the OAV had already started last April 14.

“We ask our fellow concerned OFWs who believe that the spirit of democracy is measured through the electoral process, to please help us in our campaign and encourage our kababayans to vote,” said Amora.

In Dubai, the controversial whistle-blower Sandra Cam was also distributing leaflets to Filipinos to vote.

Cam told Arab News she will be guarding both the consulate in Dubai and the embassy in Abu Dhabi to protect the votes for Sen. Panfilo Lacson and ensure that cheating does not occur.

Last Friday, only 2 percent or 424 turned out to vote out of the 18,648 registered voters in Dubai. In Abu Dhabi, so far only 3 percent or 530 voters showed up out of the 16,532 registered voters.

Majah Moralde, the Dubai-based reporter of Balitang Middle East (BME), said that Filipinos are still in a wait-and-see mode on what’s going on in Philippine politics.

Almost 5 percent already out to vote at the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait upto last Friday.

Maxxy Santiago, also a BME reporter based in Kuwait, said that 837 voters only showed up, out of the 19,003 who came out to register.

Rowen Soldevilla, BME reporter in Oman, said that only 197 OFWs cast their votes so far. This is almost 6 percent of the total 3,380 registered voters.

Delfin Montenegro, the BME reporter in Qatar, said that there is also a meager 3 percent turnout, or 321 voters out of 11,493 registrants.

In Bahrain, Titus Filio said only 120 voters turned up in the first two weeks, out of a total of 5,100 registrants, or 2 percent.