European Parliament reports violations in parliamentary race

European Parliament reports violations in parliamentary race

 Several violations were observed during the first phase of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, the vice president of the European Union Parliament, Edward McMillan-Scott, said.

A four-member delegation from the EU parliament arrived in Egypt on Wednesday to observe the first of three phases of local parliamentary elections.

McMillan-Scott, the delegation’s head, reported that members of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) had attempted to stop the delegation from entering a polling station.

“The violent behaviour by a crowd of thugs…was clearly organised against us, and aimed to intimidate supporters of opposition candidates,” McMillan-Scott said in a press release.

Coming in the wake of the country’s first ever multi-candidate presidential elections, held in September, observers are calling the parliamentary contest one of the most important political races in recent history.

Aside from incremental advances in terms of fairness, observers also note the importance of the parliamentary elections in light of a recent constitutional amendment, passed in May, allowing more than one candidate to run in national presidential elections.

Previously, a single candidate – backed by the NDP-dominated parliament – would be rubber stamped in a Yes-or-No referendum.

In the last several polls, incumbent president Hosni Mubarak would invariably garner unrealistically high “Yes” votes, often well over 90 percent.

While constitutional changes allowed for multiple presidential candidacies, however, they also imposed stringent restrictions on the nomination process.

According to the ammendment, political parties must have a minimum of 5 percent of seats in parliament to nominate a candidate for the presidency.

Independents, meanwhile, must garner the support of 250 members of different legislative bodies, 65 of whom must be MPs.

This election has been deemed of vital importance, given that whoever wins the seats will likely play a role in determining contenders for the coming persidential elections in six years’ time.

While a full report will eventually be issued by the EU Parliament, McMillan-Scott reported the delgation’s initial impressions.

He complained of inaccurate voting registration procedures – which favoured the ruling party – and numerous instances of vote buying.

McMillan-Scott’s statements conforms to several other recent reports issued by civil society organisations, many of which had a hand in election monitoring.

The Independent committee for Election Monitoring (ICEM), for example, reported on Wednesday that “elections [were] marred by severe and widespread violations and irregularities.”

These violations, the ICEM reported, included ballot stuffing, inaccurate lists of registered voters and intimidation.

Consequently, several monitoring groups have demanded improved regulations for the coming two phases, which will begin on 20 November and 1 December, and the run-off election from the first phase, scheduled for Tuesday.

“We have demanded the Supreme Parliamentary Elections Committee to ensure the integrity of each phase,” said Mahmoud Aly, of the of the Egyptian Association for the supporting of Demcoratic Development (EASD).

The European delegation was not invited by the Egyptian government.

“The delegation came on its own initiative,” said Hesham Radwan, a legal consultant for the delegation.

No one from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was available for comment.