Egypt enjoyed mostly peaceful voting
Published on Wed, 2012-01-25 07:46
The third round of the elections in Egypt was a meaningful democratic exercise, with relatively few reports of violence or intimidation. The main irregularities were the widespread active political campaigning in and around polling centers, which resulted in sporadic violence, and the denial of access to observers, according to Project Rakeeb, a watchdog program run by two civil society organizations.
Project Rakeeb’s methodology, known as “Parallel Vote Tabulation” and created by the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement (EACPE, focal point of Social Watch) and the Egyptian Association for Dissemination and Development of Legal Awareness (EADDLA), combined statistical principles, state-of-the-art information technology and the best practices of citizen observers from around the world.
For the three rounds of Egypt’s first post-revolution People’s Assembly Elections, Project Rakeeb deployed 1,267 citizen observers across the country. In the third round, it deployed 383 non-partisan citizen observers in all nine governorates.
The objectives of Project were to evaluate to what extent the elections are fair and transparent and to enhance citizen participation in the political process.
Rakeeb’s observers found that the third round of voting in Egypt’s People’s Assembly Elections was a meaningful democratic exercise. The voting process was mostly peaceful on both election days with relatively few reports of violence or intimidation.
The main challenges were widespread political campaigning by a wide range of political contests in and around polling center -- which resulted in sporadic incident of violence between political party representatives and supporters -- and the continued denial of access to accredited observers to voting and counting places, notably by security officials.
Rakeeb observers reported 98 incidents of active campaigning, mostly attributed to Freedom and Justice, and Nour parties, but also to Al-Wasat, Egyptian Bloc, Egyptian National Party, Egyptian-Arab Union, Freedom, Wafd, and independent candidates.
Observers noted the presence of party-sponsored booths in front of polling centers in a few locations, most often belonging to Freedom and Justice. As a result, Rakeeb observers reported incidents of conflict between political party representatives and supporters in Dakhaliya, Qalyubia, Matrouh, South Sinai and Qena.
Rakeeb observers noted that, unlike during the second round when some efforts were undertaken to prevent unlawful campaigning, security and election officials rarely intervened to stop such activities.
Also of concern, Project Rakeeb observers continued to be denied access or expelled from polling stations despite having received accreditation from the Supreme Judicial Committee for Elections (SJCE). In total, 44 Rakeeb observers were either expelled or denied access over the two-day voting period.
In most cases, accredited observers were denied access by judicial supervisors however, in a few cases, Rakeeb observers were prevented from entering polling stations by security personnel. In one case, a Rakeeb observer was denied access to a counting center in Dakhaliya by a security official and threatened with arrest.
The denial of access to accredited observers violates the SJCE regulations, the National Council for Human Rights Code of Conduct, and international election standards. Moreover, denial of observer access by security personnel constitutes flagrant interference in the electoral process and undermines the integrity of the process and independence of the election authorities.
The following challenges could be noted on both days in many polling stations: polling officials did not ink the fingers of voters, increasing the potential for voter fraud; security personnel were present inside of polling stations without due cause, increasing the potential for voter intimidation; and some individuals were not found on the voters’ list, either because they were uncertain of their polling locations or because voters’ list contained errors.
Less frequently, ballot boxes were not locked or sealed, increasing the potential for vote tampering; not all ballots issued to voters were not stamped or signed on the back signifying their validity, increasing the potential that such votes would be considered invalid; voters were unable to mark their ballots in secrecy, increasing the potential for voter intimidation; polling officials did not properly mark voters’ lists to note an individual had been permitted to vote or ensure that voters’ inked / signed next to their names after they voted, increasing the potential for confusion in the ballot reconciliation and voter fraud.