Wednesday, April 14, 2010

More Saudi OFWs urged to vote as OAV turnout remains low on 3rd day

04/13/2010 | 09:57 PM

Original Story:

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia—Voter turnout for the overseas absentee voting in Saudi Arabia remains low on the third day, with the total number of votes cast for all three days still less than one percent of the total number of registered voters.

Observers have noted that the seats reserved for voters in every precinct are very often vacant.

But Comelec focal person in Riyadh Vice Consul Roussel R. Reyes said it is still too early to establish trends as the OAV is only on its third day.

“We still have 27 days and we are expecting our kababayan especially those living outside the city to come and vote this weekend (Thursday and Friday), I’m positive that the turnout will go up," Reyes said.

Philippine Embassy staff in Saudi Arabia assist overseas Filipino worker in casting her vote, as part of the overseas absentee voting scheme for the May 10 elections. Embassy officials noted that voter turnout remained low, and reiterated their call for all registered voters among OFWs to get out and vote. Ronald Concha

In spite of the small number of registered voters casting their votes so far, the general sentiment is still that all eligible Filipino voters, including those busy working abroad, have the obligation and the right to choose the best leaders to govern the country.

In Jeddah, brothers Rolando, Lorenzo and Emmanuel Ricardo—all three working at the Fitaihi Company—went to the Philippine Embassy and cast their ballot during their break time.

The three said they voted because they wanted their voices to be heard.

A group of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) employed by the Al Jeddaih Company, who also took time out from work to cast their votes, said they are excited to join the electoral exercise and they are hoping that this will lead to change for the better.

Ernesto Bonares was disappointed, however, for not being able to vote. According to him, he did not see his name in the Certified List of Overseas Absentee Voting.

Bonares said he registered during the time of President Joseph Estrada, but was not able to vote during the last elections in 2007.

Another OFW, who filed his application to run for senator but was rejected by the Comelec reportedly due to his “lack of financial capability," also voted along with his wife.

Rudy Dianalan said he felt mixed emotions after he cast his vote—he felt happy because once again he was able to exercise his right to vote as a Filipino, and sad at the same time for being reminded again that the Comelec had denied his candidacy. (See: OFWs launch online petition for senatorial bet)

Meanwhile, Vice Consul Reyes said there were other voters whose names were not in the CLOAV but were in the list of voters with voting records. He said the embassy set up an assistance desk to address the common problems encountered by the voters.

In Al-Khobar, Labor Attache Des Dicang said they are stepping up the campaign to get OFWs to vote through the help of the 70-plus organizations in the Eastern Province in disseminating the information, including community activities, and in writing to the companies to allow their Filipino workers to cast their votes.

The voting center in Al-Khobar has the most flexible time compared with other voting centers in Saudi Arabia, with voting allowed anytime from 11a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.

In Saudi Arabia, Thursdays and Fridays are considered the weekend days.

Consul General Ezzedin Tago reiterated his earlier call on all registered voters throughout Saudi Arabia to grab the opportunity offered by the one-month overseas absentee voting system to exercise their right to vote. (See: Pinoy overseas voters in KSA urged to vote as OAV starts)

More than 52,887 voters are registered in Riyadh; 36,053 in Jeddah; and 21,537 in Alkhobar.—Ronaldo Z. Concha/JV, GMANews.TV

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