What did NGO monitors say about the referendum? Mohamed Abdel-Baky finds out
"Help us by recording any irregularities you witness. Guarantee your family's future by keeping the electoral process fair and transparent," read a flyer distributed outside polling stations in Nasr City, Eastern Cairo, by the Allashan Baladana (For Our Country) campaign. The flyer included ways to identify any electoral malpractice and how to report irregularities to monitoring groups.
Last Saturday's referendum was a unique experience for most of those monitoring the poll. For the first time in decades there were no reports of widespread electoral fraud.
A majority of monitors agreed the vast bulk of irregularities could be blamed on poor logistical preparation and a lack of experience on the part of judicial supervisors, as well as the time and resources they were allocated.
Unstamped ballot papers, a lack of black curtains to give voters privacy and campaigning outside and inside polling stations by Islamists and Salafists groups were the extent of the problems recorded.
In its report on the referendum the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement (EACPE) said Egyptian voters had proved to the world that "they are eager to build a democratic state".
The report added that the Muslim Brotherhood, assisted by "fundamentalists" affiliated to Salafist and Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya groups, had campaigned inside and outside thousands of polling stations for a yes vote.
"These campaigns urged, sometimes in a way that verged on intimidation, voters to choose yes, often in sectarian language," said the report.
A video posted on YouTube shows young members of the Muslim Brotherhood in control of the Bashteel polling station in Giza directing voters to choose Yes and claiming a No-vote was against Sharia law.
Some observers also reported that members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the NDP had distributed food and other "Gifts", including CDs containing religious materials, to voters in Luxor and Kafr Al-Sheikh.
Mohamed El-Baradei, the former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a presidential candidate, was attacked while waiting to vote in front of Al-Shaimaa School in the Moqattam area in Cairo.
EACPE reported that some "Salafists" and thugs loudly cheered "Yes, yes" and "We don't want you!" while throwing stones and pieces of broken glass at El-Baradei and his supporters.
Another clash was reported in Beni Sweif in Upper Egypt, where a group of Salafists fought with opponents, thought to be the hired thugs that were a feature of earlier, NDP campaigns.
EACPE's observers noted that "in many areas voting during the final hours of the referendum seemed to split along sectarian lines".
Many have complained that the timetable for holding the referendum was too tight for the Supreme Judicial Committee (SJC) and the Armed Forces to pay the necessary attention to logistics, creating a state of confusion in thousands of poll stations.
"The number of polling stations could not absorb the number of voters. We should have been better prepared and those in charge of running the process needed to be better trained," says Magdi Abdel-Hamid, the director of EACPE.
Egypt has 54,000 polling stations and more than 45 million registered voters, the majority under 35.
The opening of polling stations in some cities was delayed until the afternoon due to the shortage of judges, many of whom had to be transported in military planes to Upper Egyptian towns.
Monitors from the Egyptian Association to Support Democratic Development (EASD) reported that voters were not required to dip their fingers in indelible phosphoric ink at some polling stations, while in other parts of the country the ink was easily removed.
In Nagaa Hammadi 90 per cent of voting cards were left unstamped.
Observers also faced administrative challenges, and complain the SJC did not grant a sufficient number of accreditations. EASD reports that only 3,000 observers received permission from the SJC to monitor the referendum, and then only at the last minute.
International observers were allowed to observe the election for the first time since 2005. A diplomat in Washington told Al-Ahram Weekly that the SJC gave permission to National Democratic Institute observers a day before the referendum. He added that the Egyptian government had indicated that observers from the Carter Center and International Republican Institute (IRI) would be welcome but there was insufficient time for them to send monitoring missions.
To avoid similar problems in future elections observers suggest establishing an independent committee for electoral procedures with a permanent staff and budget.