Egyptian NGOs call for change in third round of elections

The NGOs involved in monitoring Egypt's parliamentary elections have released a statement on the abuses that took place and made demands on how the third and final round should be held.

Two interesting recommendations stand out: they are asking President Mubarak to "announce his full responsibility" for the third round, and asking the Muslim Brotherhood to "stop using religion and its slogans to make gains" and "to refrain from manipulating religious feelings." I find it rather odd that they are asking a religious party to stop using religious slogans, but this echoes the concerns we've been hearing all week from the Egyptian punditocracy across the political spectrum.

Full text after the jump.

Full text of press release:
The National Campaign to Monitor Election / Shadow Election Monitoring Committee

Press Release Statement
Concerning Parliament Stage II Re-Election Monitoring

The National Campaign for Monitoring the Elections and the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, the Shadow Committee for Election Monitoring coordinator, held a press conference on 27 November 2005 to announce the results of monitoring the parliament phase II re-election 2005.

Statement

Through our monitors' comments and statements about the phase re-election of the 2005 parliament elections, we can say that this round was dominated by a number of characteristics, the most significant of which are as follows:

1. Egyptian security forces prevented voters from their Constitutional right to vote, select and participate in government. Security forces imposed a security belt and a siege around many constituencies and polling stations, which even expanded to surround complete villages in some cases.
2. The high rates of violence and thuggery on part of thugs and dangerous criminals as an introduction to impose security belts around polling stations that would ultimately result in directing the election process in favor of certain candidates.
3. The use of money to influence the will of simple voters and abusing their need for money to buy their will.
4. Manipulating the religious feelings and worldly hopes of voters to achieve political gains in a country where illiteracy reached about 50%.
5. Failure to observe the law organizing political rights and the instructions of the Supreme Committee for Parliament Election without taking any legal measures against violators.
6. Failure to observe real judiciary supervision over elections. The role of judges was restricted –once again- inside polling stations to the extent that some security personnel humiliated the judges who attempted to break the security belt imposed on a polling station to allow voters to practice their right of giving their vote. As a result, some judges refused to continue supervision.
7. Many monitors were prevented from performing their work whether by security forces or some supervisors to the extent that some monitors were arrested and detained until the end of the election process. Monitors were also prevented from observing vote counts although they had been issued relevant permits from the Supreme Committee for Parliament Election.

These aspects characterizing this round of the parliament election show that the round lacked many of the objective criteria of the election process and took place in a climate that can be described as unhealthy and lacking in honesty and ethics, deviates from the concept of democracy and the civil state. Criticism can not be restricted to one party in particular of the parties involved in the election process. All parties participated in varying degrees to creating this climate which renders the election process void. It no longer expresses the real will of the voters.

Thus, in the light of the monitored incidents, we call upon all parties to seek a code of ethics that puts an end to such practices, including acts of violence, buying votes, manipulating religious sentiments or preventing voters from exercising their Constitutional rights. The Egyptian people should not be treated as goods in a market regardless of the price. Nobody should seek to manipulate the religious or the worldly hopes of the people.

We also call upon the President to prove, rather than merely being the president of the ruling party, that he is the president of all the various sects and affiliations that the Arab Republic of Egypt encompasses.

We call upon the Minister of Justice, the chairman of the Supreme Committee of Parliament Election, the competing parties and the Muslim Brotherhood to take the necessary measures that will control and minimize the unhealthy climate that characterized this round and prevent it from prevailing over the third round.

For these reasons, we recommend the following:
1. The President to announce his complete responsibility for the third stage of the election.
2. The President to issue a decree that affirms the right of the Court of Cassation as stated in article 93 of the Constitution and render the results of its investigations concerning challenges obliging to all parties in order to teach anyone who attempts to manipulate the will of citizens that they will not be on the winning end before the parliament starts its sessions.
3. The Minister of Justice, as the chairman of the Supreme Committee for Parliament Election, is called upon to face up to his responsibilities and defend the regulatory principles placed by the Committee he heads. The Justice Minister is also called upon to adopt a more effective means to facing violations. One of the main reasons behind the phenomenon of thuggery is allowing candidates to exceed the duration of election campaigning which continued until election day, right outside polling stations without any deterrent.
4. The Interior Minister is called upon to give clear instructions to relevant security forces to secure the election process. He is also called upon to give clear instructions that judges supervise the election process as a whole, both inside and outside polling stations, as well as instructing security personnel to obey the decisions of heads of polling stations.
5. In order to prevent the phenomenon of thuggery, we also call upon the Minister of Interior to arrest and place in custody any candidate supporters or agents that perform campaigning activities 48 hours before the election. Voting should take place in the absence of any campaigning outside the polling station.
6. An immediate investigation should be conducted and opposition detainees should be released if proven innocent of involvement in acts of violence.
7. The National Democratic Party is called upon to search for an alternative means and to prevent its candidates from buying votes. Citizens' wills are more valuable than to be involved in such dealings.
8. The Muslim Brotherhood and its candidates are called upon to stop using religion and its slogans to make gains. They are asked to refrain from manipulating religious feelings.

Finally, the National Campaign for Monitoring the Election and the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, the coordinator of the Shadow Committee to Monitor the Election, express their support to the independent judges supervising the election and their honorable positions represented by Counselor Dr. Noha al-Zeini. We announce that we have filed two complaints to the Minister of Justice (in his capacity as the chairman of the Supreme Committee for Parliament Election) and the Prosecutor General requesting an investigation concerning the violations mentioned in Counselor Noha al-Zeini's memo. The testimony of Counselor al-Zeini and other judges supervising the election should be heard, as well as the testimony of security personnel. Ballot boxes, as well as the vote counting results signed by sub-committee heads, should be kept in custody.
1 Comment

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.