Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1264, (1 - 7 October 2015)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1264, (1 - 7 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Eyes on the ballot

Six international organisations will observe the upcoming parliamentary elections, writes Mohamed Abdel-Baky

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The first round of Egypt’s long-delayed parliamentary elections will be held between 17 - 28 October in 14 governorates: Al-Giza, Al-Fayoum, Beni Sweif, Al-Minya, Assuit, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, the New Valley, the Red Sea, Al-Beheira, Alexandria and Marsa Matrouh.

Expatriate Egyptians will begin voting on 17 October and residents of the 14 governorates on the 18 and19 October. If a run-off is needed voting abroad will take place on 26 and 27 October and in Egypt on 27 and 28 October.

The election will be monitored by local and international observers. The Higher Election Committee has already approved the requests of 81 NGOs to observe the poll. Among the 81 are six international organisations: Democracy International; the Global Network for Rights and Development; the International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights; the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, the Ecumenical Alliance for Human Rights and Development and the Arab League. Between them the six organisations will send 790 observers accompanied by 180 translators. 

The 75 local organisations granted monitoring status will deploy up to 97,000 observers. According to HEC the list includes the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights and the Maat Foundation for Peace, Development and Human Rights.

The African Union (AU) is expected to send up to 60 observers, headed by former Tunisian prime minister Mahdi Gomaa. The AU observed Egypt’s presidential elections in 2014 and while it noted in its final report that the poll had been held in “a constrained political and security atmosphere” it concluded that “the technical conduct of the 2014 Presidential Election in Egypt was acceptable overall”.

The European Union has announced it will not be sending a full monitoring mission though a small team of experts will be dispatched to observe the vote.

“We welcome the Egyptian government’s decision to hold parliamentary elections in October and we are happy to send a team of experts to observe the electoral process,” said James Mourn, the EU’s ambassador to Cairo.

The Carter Centre, which recently closed its Cairo office, has confirmed it will not be monitoring the elections.

US-based Democracy International began its monitoring of the election process with the registration of candidates.

“The upcoming parliamentary elections represent the culmination of Egypt’s post-transition roadmap after the constitutional referendum in January 2014 and the presidential election in May 2014,” says Democracy International.  “At the invitation of the Egyptian election commission we conducted comprehensive international observation missions for the January 2014 Constitutional Referendum and May 2014 Presidential Elections, and we are being invited again to monitor the parliamentary elections.”

Democracy International will employ 200 observers — American, Egyptian and third country technical experts — to monitor the poll and assess the electoral environment and political context, including campaigns, legal structures, civil engagement, and political party and individual candidate participation. It will issue a comprehensive report at the conclusion of the election process.

The Arab League has announced its own preparations to observe the elections are nearing completion.

“The Secretary General of the Arab League has ordered monitors to observe the election in all governorates,” said Haifa Abu Ghazaleh, assistant secretary-general for the League’s media and communication department which is responsible for the monitoring mission.

An operations room has already been set up at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo to follow the election process and delegations from other Arab countries will be invited to join the process.

 “We will invite delegations from all Arab countries to follow the Egyptian parliamentary elections through the Arab League’s operations room,” said Abu Ghazaleh. “The room is fully equipped so that we can communicate with the observers throughout the day to facilitate their work.”

“The Arab League’s mission consists of more than 100 observers, all trained to international levels, as well as volunteers. We will provide them with monitoring forms and all the relevant records they need, along with ID cards which will give them access to polling stations.”

“Egypt now has more than 54 million eligible voters. These are the biggest elections to be held in the region and everyone is keen to follow what is happening in Egypt,” she said.

The Arab League will issue a report recording its observations of the voting process for both expatriates and residents after the polls close.

Experts point out that the HEC may have permitted six international organisations to observe the elections but the 790 international observers that will be deployed is not enough for comprehensive monitoring.

“Egypt elections are the biggest in the region. There are 350 main polling stations and an estimated 30,000 auxiliary ones. International observers will not be able to be in every poll station,” says Ayman Okail, the director of Maat, an Egyptian human rights advocacy group.  They will therefore have to coordinate with local monitors to get a full picture of what is happening across Egypt’s governorates.

This week, says Okail, local organisations will hold a meeting with international observers to coordinate their work.

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