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OFWs may cast absentee ballots in Riyadh, al-Khobar

First Posted 13:38:00 04/26/2010

MANILA, Philippines?The Philippine embassy in Saudi Arabia has allowed registered Filipino overseas absentee voters in the capital city Riyadh and the eastern city of al-Khobar to cast their ballots in any of the two voting centers there.

The embassy, in an advisory on its website, said the Commission on Elections? overseas absentee voting (OAV) committee approved the procedure following the request of the Department of Foreign Affairs? OAV secretariat.

?This will allow the voters with names listed in Riyadh to vote in al-Khobar and vice versa. In this regard, all OAV voters listed in Riyadh but registered in al-Khobar and vice versa can now cast their votes at the International Philippine School in al-Khobar, Philippine embassy in Riyadh, and Philippine International School in Buraydah,? the embassy said.

The overseas Filipino workers alliance Migrante-Middle East welcomed the announcement, saying it hoped that would help in reversing the trend of low voters? turnout in the kingdom.

?This is a good move; it will surely be a big help to the overseas voters who have been deployed in other places or have changed their accommodation. The new rule could give them ease going to the nearest polling precinct to cast their vote. The OFWs here can now vote wherever is convenient and accessible to them,? Migrante-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona, who is based in Riyadh, said in a statement emailed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Monterona said an OFW in al-Khobar who wanted to go to Riyadh to vote would think twice since the travel time and cost would be ?major? considerations.

He added that most employers would not allow their workers to travel from their work sites or barracks without permission. The same has been true with most domestic workers, he added.

Monterona said that on the hindsight, the Comelec should have just designated postal voting instead of personal voting as the OAV method in the kingdom.

?We will be pushing this idea in the next and future elections?not only in Saudi Arabia but also in other countries in the Middle East. Voters here face lots of hindrances due to strict political culture of the host governments, the very nature of their jobs, and their physical location,? he said.

Monterona added that the government should continue ?thinking up affirmative, practical, and doable means and ways in pro-actively reaching the most number of Filipino overseas voters by implementing measures that would encourage them to vote.?

There are about 111,000 registered overseas absentee voters in Saudi Arabia.

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