Egypt’s Judges Cannot Guarantee Openess in Next Week’s Election

Egypt’s Judges Cannot Guarantee Openess
in Next Week’s Election
CAIRO – Egypt’s judges warned that the transparency of next Wednesday’s presidential election could not be guaranteed unless they have complete independence to fulfill their task of supervising the polls.

However, cassation court Judge Mahmud Makki, speaking Friday amid widespread voter threats to boycott the polls, said the judges’ syndicate would probably relent on its threat not to monitorthe vote.

The judges will “carry out their duty and oversee the vote” but “we will announce at the syndicate’s general
assembly that we will distance ourselves from the polls’ results as long as our demands are not honored,” he told News Agencies.

“We will tell the whole world that Egypt’s judges will try to prevent vote rigging with all their might but that they
won’t vouch 100 percent for the election’s transparency,” he added.

The newly formed electoral commission, in charge of organizing Egypt’s first contested presidential race, has drawn up a list of 13,000 officials, including 11,000 judges, who will supervise the vote.

Makki said the syndicate was angered by the commission’s decision not to include 2,000 judges on the list “after they pressed demands for the independence of the judiciary.”

The government considers as judges those officials who were appointed to replaced those judges who were excluded, but the syndicate does not.

Another cassation court’s top official said the electoral commission had “violated the basic rules of transparency”
by sidelining the dissenting judges.

Hisham Bastawissi also blasted the commission’s decision to let only judges inside the stations “when there are no guarantees of transparency and fairness.”

The electoral commission has said it would only let in judges and party delegates for the 10 presidential candidates, among them incumbentHosni Mubarak.

Several NGOs have filed a complaint with Cairo’s administrative tribunal over the restriction, and a verdict is due on Saturday.

The myriad of home-grown NGOs that recently formed to supervise the poll have said they are training observers, who would stand outside the polling stations should the restriction be maintained.

The judges’ syndicate charged last month that the May referendum that approved a contested presidential race had been marred by widespread fraud.

Judges called for guarantees that security forces would not interfere in subsequent voting and demanded complete control over the electoral process from the drawing up of registers to counting ballotsand publishing the results.

Makki said the judges would not relent on their main demands: “first, transparency during vote counting and two, that observers from local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) be allowed inside the polling stations.”

The judges’ decision could have an impact on turnout as some voters have warned they would stay home on September 7 if the judges were not allowed to operate freely