Egypt court backs election monitors Published

Egypt court backs election monitorsPublished
 Doha Time
CAIRO: A Cairo court ruled yesterday that human rights and civic groups should be given unfettered access to monitor this month’s parliamentary elections after several filed suit against the electoral commission last week.

The court acknowledged “the right for civic organisations to monitor the vote inside and outside polling stations,” a judiciary official said.

The NGOs had protested against a decision by Justice Minister Mahmud Abuleil, who chairs the electoral commission, allowing them to monitor the month-long elections only with permission from the state-sponsored National Human Rights Council.

The court’s decision “is a victory as it affirms the right for NGOs to monitor the vote without conditions,” said Negad al-Borai from the Group for Democratic Development.

He said NGOs were planning to send lists of some 2,000 monitors’ names to the electoral commission today. The three-stage elections for 444 members of parliament begin two days later.

Rights groups were allowed to monitor a September 7 presidential election but in many cases they reported their representatives were denied access to polling stations or even beaten up.

The parliamentary election is to begin with eight governorates, including Cairo, and end on December 7.

“One should not expect major political changes,” political analyst Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed said, ruling out a real contest between the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and the opposition.

With 222 constituencies and a total of 5,310 candidates nationwide, talk of reform and democracy was relegated to a handful of major rallies while campaigns focused on the voters’ daily needs, such as housing and sanitation.

Sayyed said that key indicators to watch would be the respective results of the NDP – which currently controls 404 of parliament’s 454 seats – and the Muslim Brotherhood.

There are only 23 women in the running for a seat in the People’s Assembly, representing 0.4% of all candidates.

The 2000 polls confirmed the Egyptian parliament as a monolithic and largely toothless institution where the opposition is little more than decorative.

Yet initial returns for the elections saw the ruling party muster less than 40% of the vote, before 253 NDP renegades who ran as independents were brought back into the fold.

The same scenario could unfold in the coming weeks as the NDP’s 444 official candidates face off against around 3,000 ‘independents.’ – AFP