Egypt: Presidential elections are not free, warns EACPE

Egypt presidential elections posters
and billboards.
(Photo: gr33ndata/Tarek/Flickr/CC)

The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement (EACPE, focal point of Social Watch in the Arab country) said it would not monitor the presidential elections this week because of the restrictions placed on non governmental organizations by the government.

The strictures imposed by the election committee prevent the organizations to do their job, reported Reuters and several other news agencies.

"Foreign monitors will be false witnesses because they should have monitored the whole process starting from candidate applications. The election is not free because of political wrangling and the violence in the streets," said Ahmed Fawzy, member of the EACPE.

According to Reuters, Egyptian authorities have allowed observers of this week’s presidential election to start work on Tuesday, too late for monitoring groups as the EACPE to draw a full picture of the contest.

Fair, trouble-free voting on Wednesday and Thursday would help the winner establish his authority after 15 months of turbulent military rule since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak during a wave of Arab uprisings last year, reported the British news agency.

Between 30 and 40 million citizens are expected to head to the polls on Wednesday out of a total of 53 million eligible voters, “for an election that will prove that last year's January 25 Revolution that ousted Mubarak has changed Egypt's political landscape and psyche forever,” reported Al-Ahram, one of the major magazines in the country.

“Two former members of the Mubarak regime, former foreign minister Amr Moussa and Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, head into Wednesday’s vote with good chances of clinching a spot in the runoffs, slated for 16 and 17 June,” according to Al-Ahram. “Two candidates who played an important role in the January 25 Revolution and who had already made names for themselves as opponents of Mubarak – Nasserist Hamdeen Sabbahi and former Brotherhood leader Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh – continued to show that they, too, stood a decent chance of reaching the runoff vote in June.”

Reuters reported a few incidents of violence and intimidation by “hired thugs that helped secure crushing election wins for Mubarak and his allies for decades.” “The official start of campaigning early this month was marred by deadly clashes in Cairo between troops and opponents of army rule, and some presidential hopefuls were disqualified at the last minute, sparking protests,” added the agency.

If no candidate wins more than 50 percent in the first round, the top two vote-getters will fight a run-off in June. The army has pledged to hand power to the new president by July 1 and insists it is not siding with any candidate, reads the news story issued by Reuters.

International monitors have been waiting since April for authorization to work on the ground. “We could not really assess the pre-electoral period as we did not have the accreditation,” said to Reuters Justin Doua, field director for the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), one of three foreign groups checking the vote.

The Carter Center said last week that the delay in getting badges meant its monitors prevented them to observe candidate and voter nominations or campaigning, which ended on Sunday. The Center monitors reported on Tuesday that they did not receive their badges, and the Arab network of monitors named Maat did not receive theirs.

EISA reported some minor disorder during electoral meetings but no major clashes. The Carter Center has also complained of state election committee rules limiting the time monitors can spend in polling stations and barring them from commenting on the process until results are announced, said Reuters.

The election committee has accredited 9,700 monitors from 54 foreign and local groups for the presidential election, said Hazem Mounir of the election unit at Egypt's National Council for Human Rights, far fewer than in the parliamentary vote.