Tuesday,19 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)
Tuesday,19 December, 2017
Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

‘Securing’ the electoral process

The ministries of interior and defence are coordinating security for next week’s parliamentary elections, writes Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

“The ministry’s policy is to secure the electoral process with complete commitment and impartiality and to provide a safe environment for citizens to freely cast their votes,” said Interior Minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar at a meeting reviewing plans for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

“The role of the police is limited to protecting voters, and it will not intervene in the electoral process in any way.

The police presence will only be outside the voting committees,” Abdel-Ghaffar said.

Voting in the first round of the long-delayed parliamentary elections is scheduled to begin next week. The first phase of the elections will open when Egyptians abroad begin voting on 17 and 18 October, while domestic voters will have their say on 18 and 19 October.

The first phase will take place in 14 governorates — Giza, Fayoum, Beni Sweif, Minya, Assiut, New Valley, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, Red Sea, Beheira, Alexandria and Marsa Matruh — with 2,573 independent candidates competing for 226 seats. If there is a run-off after the first round, voting abroad will take place on 26 and 27 October, and in Egypt on 27 and 28 October.

“The voting will be facilitated by positive treatment and the provision of equipment for the elderly and for people with special needs so that they can exercise their constitutional rights,” Abdel-Ghaffar said.

He has reviewed the security plans for the elections to ensure that all the personnel involved understand the tasks assigned to them, in coordination and cooperation with the armed forces. He also ordered the establishment of a central operations room, linking this to operations rooms in other sectors of the ministry to receive information and make decisions in accordance with events or emergency situations.

“The security forces will tighten up the control of the roads leading to the voting committees,” Abdel-Ghaffar said, stressing the police’s readiness to face any emergency situations.

The parliamentary elections are the last step in the three-phase political roadmap announced following the removal of former president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Originally intended to be held before the presidential elections, the polls have been repeatedly delayed.

The most recent delay was in March this year when the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) ruled that two key election laws — the division of electoral constituencies law and the House of Representatives law — were unconstitutional.

It recommended that the boundaries of the electoral constituencies in 13 governorates be redrawn and ruled that Egyptians with dual nationality be allowed to stand as parliamentary candidates.

These two laws, as well as the exercise of political rights law, were amended by a 15-member judicial and legislative committee mandated to implement the SCC ruling. The amended legislation was ratified by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi on 9 July.

“The security plan that has been put in place will be followed by all the security bodies, which will work together while respecting human rights and the dignity of Egyptian citizens,” a security source told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The source said the Interior Ministry has placed all its departments on the highest alert and the holidays of all security personnel have been cancelled for the voting period. “Areas around the voting committees will be secured by the security services through fast-moving groups of the Central Security Forces and the criminal investigation forces,” he added.

“Comprehensive security measures will be applied to protect vital facilities in all the governorates during the elections in order to deal with any lawless elements. Any attempt to impede the voting process will be dealt with using the utmost firmness within the framework of the law,” the source said.

In order to ensure the safety of the electoral process, the Interior Ministry, through its national security apparatus, has performed pre-emptive strikes in recent days. The strikes have targeted the “leaders of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group and its loyalists accused of trespassing on public and private property or participating in hostilities.”

“Twenty-six such elements were arrested during the raids, along with 36 members of the attack committees of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had earlier attacked the military and police forces in addition to vital facilities,” sources within the ministry said.

During a security crackdown on the Giza area of Kerdasa, 70 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested and charged with “planning to commit acts of sabotage and detonate explosive devices near the voting committees in Cairo and Giza.”

Assistant Interior Minister for Media and Public Relations Abu Bakr Abdel-Karim told the state news agency MENA that acts of vandalism and attempts to disturb the peace during the parliamentary elections will be tackled “decisively” in order to implement the law while respecting human rights.

“There is a meticulous plan in place to secure the elections, and this will be carried out in cooperation with the army,” Abdel-Karim said. He stressed that all the necessary preparations have been made at polling stations to ensure the elections go smoothly.

Abdel-Karim said that Abdel-Ghaffar has instructed security personnel to use their discretion and to refrain from interfering in the elections. He added that no policemen will enter polling stations unless requested to do so by the elections committees.

At a meeting on Wednesday, the cabinet under Prime Minister Sherif Ismail reviewed preparations for the elections. During the meeting, Ismail reviewed the role played by ten ministries in the elections, according to the State Information Service website, adding that there will be coordination between the defence and interior ministries to secure the polls and transfer judges.

“The cabinet has reviewed preparations for the forthcoming parliamentary polls, emphasising the need to hold them under optimal conditions in order to carry out the last step of the road map,” said Refaat Komzan, electoral affairs adviser to the prime minister. He added that Ismail has given directions ordering the elections to be held with maximum transparency and fairness.

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